16 new operators blacklisted
Russia has continued in its quest to blacklist unlicensed gambling operators as the Federal Tax Service (FTS) adds a further 16 companies to its list of forbidden payments. It claims it wants to protect citizens by allowing them to gamble with the 20 online sportsbooks that have received local permission.
While the last cull took place in January of this year, officials have now moved onto familiar names such as Shamoo Holding Ltd (MostBet) and Panbet Curacao NV (MarathonBet). Most of the operators are based on islands such as Curacao and Cyprus.
Russia first approved its payment-blocking legislation in May 2018. Under this new law, banks must stop processing payments for those companies that are on the new blacklist. They are given only five business days to stop processing payments once an offending company has been added.
The decision was made by the Russian telecom watchdog, Roskomnadzor, which then began blocking websites that did not comply with its licensing regulations. The exact figures are unknown, but it is estimated that the agency blocked about 14,500 gambling websites in 2018.
Among the sites blocked in the autumn, there were a number of big players in the EU gambling space, such as 888, Bet365, Betfair, Betfred, Betsson, Bwin, Dafabet, 5Dimes, Ladbrokes, Lottoland, Unibet, William Hill, and Winamax. The Stars Group alone had 13 websites blocked.
Russian law requires internet giants such as Google to connect to the federal state information system (FGIS) to monitor the Unified Register of Prohibited Information. This means that blacklisted domains, including high-profile gambling sites, will be automatically blocked from appearing in Russian search results.
When Google refused to comply, unlike domestic companies Yandex and Mail.re, the Russian regulator opened an administrative case against the tech firm. It claimed it had “irrefutable proof filtering is not carried out”, which saw Google suffer a RUB500,000 ($7,500; £5,838) fine.
Last week, Roskomnadzor said that Google could fall foul of another fine, claiming it was failing to block “more than a third” of blacklisted domains from appearing in Russian search results. For this second offense, the company may be subject to a fine of up to RUB700k ($10,600), the maximum amount possible under current law.
Roskomnadzor boss Alexander Zharov has already warned that, as Google’s domain-filtering efforts relax, they will be more open to fines. However, he appeared to leave the door open to spare them a second fine if they “suddenly increase their filtering function to almost 100%.”