As it is the largest country in the world, you might think that there would be loads of opportunities to gamble in Russia. But, as a matter of fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Right up until the 1980s, all forms of gambling were completely banned in the country. This was widely policed, and the strict ruling even prevented any gambling taking place between small groups of friends. These laws were then relaxed slightly until 2009 when gambling was once again made illegal across the country. However, there are some regional exceptions and betting is actually legal now in the Kaliningrad, Primorsky, Altai and Krasnodar regions.
So why was there this change in the law? It’s probably because gambling became a big problem for Russia in the early 21st Century. In 2002 there were 2,000 gaming rooms, 58 casinos, and around 70,000 slot machines in Moscow alone. It became a big problem amongst the younger generations and teenagers were even truanting so that they could spend days sitting at slot machines. Many people were becoming addicted, which was having a negative impact on society. Not only that but money laundering was widespread. However, the ban hasn’t been all that successful, and there are still gambling houses in most big cities, disguising themselves as Internet cafes, nightclubs and lottery clubs.
As Russia is a proud sporting country, there is no wonder that most people bet on sports, especially football. The majority of football betting takes place in Moscow as it is home to a number of high-profile football teams. One of the most popular ways to place bets on football is to play the Russian Sports Lottery, which has been going since the 1980s and has greatly helped the country’s economy over the years.
These days, online gambling is proving to be highly popular amongst Russians, and the country’s biggest bookmaker, Fonbet, operates online. Even though there are Russian gambling websites, lots of people also use many international sites as well as they have a far greater choice of sports to bet on and often promise larger returns. And lots of foreign bookmakers know that they are a popular choice with Russians – many even offer special Russian-language websites to make it easier for their client base over there.
Even though the country seems to be operating well with its current setup of allowing gambling in only four regions, there were suggestions that this might change. In 2006, Vladimir Putin suggested taking all of the gambling centres and casinos out of all major cities and moving them to specific gambling zones, which would include Siberia. Again, this was suggested as a way to clean up Russia’s society. Even though the Russian public appeared to welcome these suggestions, there was an uproar from businessmen in the country, and they were quickly shelved.
For now, Russia is benefiting from its fairly moderate gambling laws and regulations. But who knows if or when the government might change them and bring in even stricter laws against gambling and betting?