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Online Casinos & Gambling Guide for Russia in 2018

RussiaAs a country, Russia has had an on/off relationship with gambling throughout the course of its history, with regulations dictated by the various political regimes of the time. Despite having a thriving gaming industry less than two decades ago, most forms of gambling – both online and offline – are now banned in the country, with the exception of four designated government zones.

It was as far back as the 17th Century when Tsar Peter the Great commissioned the country’s first national lottery, and Russians traditionally enjoyed gambling as a popular pastime. This all changed in 1928, when under Communist rule, all forms of betting were outlawed. Political reform led to a near 20-year golden period between 1988 and 2006, by which time there were 58 casinos, 2,000 gaming rooms, and 70,000 slot machines in Moscow alone.

Some prohibition is back in Russia under the current regime of Vladimir Putin, but it may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Before 2018, millions of Russians were engaged in land-based or internet gambling, and Russia continues to be ranked in the top five nations in the world for poker play.

In 2018, the Russian Duma is considering proposals to block payments to online casinos, even safe online casinos. Russia-based gamblers have a restricted choice when it comes to internet betting but there are still sites that will accept the rouble.

Best Russian Casino Sites 2018

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Best Russian Casino Sites 2018

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A History of Gambling for Russians

For over 70 years, Russia lived under a Communist flag. Roulette and casino games were popular under the Tsars for centuries, but with the Revolution in 1917 came a gradual crackdown on gambling and "bourgeois" pastimes.

With the introduction of Glasnost in the 1980s, the Communists' grip in Russia began to loosen. Many Russians started to enjoy freedoms that had been denied them.

The gambling boom re-emerged in the late 1980s when slot machines were legalised in certain locations, and a long-standing total ban was rescinded the following year. There was little regulation in place, though, and as a result the industry grew at an astronomical rate.

Thousands of gambling dens, casinos and bookmakers sprang up all over the country, and a genuine social problem developed in Russia after the fall of Communism. The number of people regularly betting in Moscow alone was estimated to be up to 1.5 million.

The fact that Moscow officials were discussing banning slot machine parlours from anywhere within 500 yards of a residential area to protect the younger generation, speaks volumes about how widespread the problem had become.

By 2006, President Vladimir Putin implemented legislation that led to all real money online gaming being outlawed. By 2009 Russia had also banned any land-based operations in favour of four government-sanctioned gambling zones in remote areas, away from most of the population.

These specially-designated areas are still in operation in 2018 and are able to open casinos and gambling establishments. The four original zones are spread across sites in European Russia, Siberia and the Far East, with two further – Crimea and Sochi – added in 2014, making six zones in total. The locations in the Far East in particular are strategically based to attract the lucrative Asian market, and the Russian government has plans to develop resort-style super-casinos to compete with the likes of Las Vegas and Macau.

Gambling Laws in Russia in 2018

Under the recent Russian Gambling Law, games of chance like roulette and slots have been banned. However, more relaxed attitudes apply to some sports betting and tote-style gambling.

New rules also stipulate that remote gambling is prohibited. Specifically, any games “using data and telecommunications networks (including the internet) or means of communication (including mobile communications)” are outlawed. Even websites providing information to Russians may be violating the law.

When it comes to online casinos, Russian gamblers love to bet. And unless an internet service provider (ISP) is specifically restricting access, most Russians can open accounts through VPNs. Roskomnadzor is the state watchdog for communications and oversees which gambling sites and online casinos Russia should be blocking.

However, a Russian law banning the use of VPNs was introduced in late 2017. The explanation from President Putin was to stop the spread of extremism, but it will inevitably prevent access to overseas gambling sites too. The changes are due to come in before the Russian election in March 2018.

Land-Based Casino Rules Change

The number of designated gambling zones has now risen to six. Within these, most of which are located in Russian outposts, casino building is permitted. Indeed, some of the new resorts being built rival Macau and Las Vegas in scope and size.

Independently-regulated lotteries are legal in Russia and organised by the Ministry of Sports or Ministry of Finance. Some licensed bookmakers are also allowed to operate if given the right permits by the Federal Tax Service.

Sportsbetting websites are required to channel their player payments through a hub called TSUPIS. Russia is due to host the FIFA World Cup in summer of 2018 and it should be a busy period for local, licensed betting sites.

Live Betting and Casinos in 2018

Under new rules, the Russian government has allowed the setting up of four special gambling zones. Two more have since been added. Gambling is taxed by the state, and gaming restrictions cover all forms of casino betting, including poker.

Casino zones are spaced out across the vast expanse of Russia. Zones, therefore, are tucked away in far-flung locations like the Baltic coast, Siberian borders, and Pacific coast.

As in Las Vegas and Macau casinos, slot machines dominate but the popular European Roulette and poker are also hits with gamblers.

Gambling Zone "Siberian Coin": Altay Territory (Siberian Coin) is located in the south of the country on the edge of Siberia. It was one of the first gambling zones to be established back in 2009. The Altai Palace Casino was introduced and is the first legal casino to be built in the country.

Though modest at first, opening with 16 table games and 20 slot machines, the Altai Palace does host slot tournaments and features its own poker room.

Gambling Zone "Primorye": Located near the Pacific port of Vladivostok, one could question why Primorye was chosen as a gambling zone, as it is far away from Moscow.

However, the Primorye Integrated Entertainment Zone (PIEZ) was the first such zone to open a casino. The huge Tigre de Cristal casino-resort opened in 2016.

Due to its eastern location and proximity to Asia, the zone has been described as the “Vegas of the East”. Tigre de Cristal's business comes from a mix of local Russian gamblers, as well as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean high rollers. It was set up with investment from Lawrence Ho, the brains behind massive Macau casinos like Studio City.

Gambling Zone "Azov-City": Located in the Krasnodar region, Azov City will actually shut down in 2019.

Gambling Zone "Yantarnaya": This is found in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea coast. It opened its first casino, Magic Cristal, in 2016. The casino boasts 150 slot machines and is spread over two storeys. In 2017, Yantarnaya opened Casino Sobranie, which is open 24 hours and features a host of big-money giveaways and tournaments.

Gambling Zone "Crimea": A controversial choice, Crimea is situated in what was once part of Ukraine. Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 after a Ukrainian revolution by pro-Russian nationalists.

Gambling Zone "Sochi": This was the host city for the 2014 Winter Games and investment in the region has continued since then. It was added to the existing list of permitted gambling zones in 2014. And in 2017, the city opened its first legalised casino, the Sochi Casino and Resort.

Located in the Gorky Gorod mountain resort, Sochi has had billions of roubles in development since it hosted the Olympics. Unfortunately, the image of the Sochi Games has been tarnished after it emerged the urine samples of Russian athletes had been switched.

Poker & the Rise of Skill Games

Card games were hugely popular during the Communist era in the Soviet Union. And since President Putin relaxed the gaming laws in 2009, land-based poker has taken off again. Technically, poker comes under "games of chance", but in 2016 it was suggested that Russia may declare poker as a game of skill. So far, no distinction has been made regarding online poker.

Some of the world's best players hail from Russia, including poker "phenoms" like Alexander "joiso" Kostritsyn, and Timofey "Trueteller" Kuznetsov. Major live tours like partypoker LIVE and the PokerStars Championship have also held legs in Russia recently.

In 2017, the partypoker Million was held at the Sochi Casino & Resort with 1,170 runners taking to the cardroom there, creating a prize pool worth $1,134,900. Though restricted to Russia's gambling zones, poker is proving popular again.

Best Deposit Methods for Russians Online

In 2018, some gambling payment methods have been blocked for online casinos. It's still possible to deposit and withdraw using other methods, however.

For playing at the best real money online casinos, it's good to find a method that allows deposits in roubles. Fast transactions with low fees are good for all Russian gamblers.

QIWI Wallet

The Visa QIWI wallet acts like a third-party processor that forms a buffer between your Russian bank account and the betting site. Customers in Kazakhstan can also use QIWI.

Yandex Money

Yandex Money is another deposit option that is specific to local gamblers. At eligible online casinos, Russia-based customers can fund an e-Wallet anonymously with Russian debit and credit cards. Making casino transfers simply requires a Yandex log-in.

WebMoney

For the best online casinos, Russian players need to move cash around securely. The WebMoney payment service was set up in Russia in the 1990s and allows anonymous transfers across the web. Some fees do apply when moving roubles around to and from gambling sites.

Find the Best Online Casinos in 2018

Russian gambling laws are going through turmoil at the moment. While it's still possible to transfer real cash to many licensed overseas online casinos, Russia-based gamblers may have to hunt around.

Russian Gambling at a Glance

Population: 144 million

Legal Age of Gambling: 18

Land-based Casinos (Y/N): Y

Online Casinos Legal (Y/N): N

Popular Games: Roulette, blackjack, poker, sports betting, lottery

Brief History of Gambling & Casinos in Russia

17th Century - Tsar Peter the Great introduces Russia's first lottery.

1867 - Dostoyevsky releases The Gambler, an autobiographical short story about a roulette addict in 19th Century Moscow.

1927 - Under Communist rule, gambling is banned in worker districts in cities around the USSR. A year later, all districts are banned from having gambling houses.

1932 - The Lottery business is regulated by the Communist government.

1988 - The first legal slot machines appear in Russia following a relaxation of Communism under President Gorbachev. To begin with, only hotels dedicated to foreign tourism are permitted to hold them.

1989 - An outright ban on gambling is lifted. The first casino opens in the Moscow Savoy Hotel.

2004 - Gambling tax is introduced for the first time.

2006 - Legislation is drafted that bans online gambling of all kinds.

2009 - Gambling is made illegal in Russia outside four special gambling zones. Plans are made for four such areas. The four regions are Siberian Coin (Altay), Yantarnaya (Kaliningrad), Azov City (Rostov) and Primorye.

2009 - First legal casino opens in Siberian Coin, the Altai Palace Casino.

2010 - First newly-legal casino in the Azov City gambling zone opens in southern Russia.

2012 - The Russian Supreme Court decrees that ISPs must block access to offshore gaming sites deemed illegal by Russian laws.

2014 - Sochi and Crimea are added to the list of legal gambling zones, bringing the total to six.

2017 - First casino is opened in Sochi's gambling zone on the Black Sea coast. The Sochi Casino and Resort wastes no time in hosting its first large-scale poker championships.

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