Russia has a bit of a rocky history as far as gambling is concerned, with a few moments in the early 1900s where it seemed like no Russians would never be able to spin a roulette wheel without facing serious jail time!
Laws in the country did eventually change, of course, but that was only much later, giving way to the Russia of the early 2000s, where gambling was legal nationwide, and then eventually the Russia of today, that has legalised gambling in certain districts. But lets take a brief look at how the country transformed from a region where gambling was outright banned for many decades.
1927 – Early Russian Gambling
In 1927 in Russia there were only four minor gambling houses, located in Leningrad. The establishments did not do enormous amounts of business, and the general attitude of the Russian people at the time was one that casino games were a fun entertainment distraction. Regardless of the situation, the People’s Commissar of the Interior put forward a report that damned gambling as an activity that did not fit with the Russian idle.
First, gambling establishments were forbidden from opening in worker districts, on direct order of the Commissar. Some at the time said that the step was perhaps a bit overzealous, and they may have been right, but those people didn’t realise that gambling would be banned outright in Russia by mid 1928. All establishments that offered gambling of any kind were immediately closed, without any explanation given to the owners of the businesses.
1930 – Further Restrictions
With gambling banned across the country, one of the only games of chance left to the people was the national lottery. But the lottery itself would also be restricted, which occurred between 1930 and 1933. The first law passed was that alcohol was not to be given as a prize in a lottery. And, in 1933 the lottery business as a whole came under strict government regulation.
1988 – First Slot Machine
The outright ban of gambling in Russia lasted for many decades, and was still in place when the first slot games arrived in the country. They were placed in hotels that generally dealt with tourists to the country, and the government made the official statement that the placement of the games of an experiment. It was already rumoured at the time; however, the ban on gambling would be lifted for the first time in over fifty years.
1989 – 1990s – Gambling Ban Lifted
With many already speculating, the ban on gambling was officially lifted in Russia on August 23, 1989. The lifting of the ban was met with mixed reactions from residents, with many hailing it as a new era for Russian freedom. Others, however, feared that the gambling craze would get out of control. Either way, a casino was opened in Moscow and saw immediate popularity.
During the 1990s the Russian peoples’ love for poker led to the organising of the first poker tournament in the country. The tournament was not seen as a huge success, but many celebrated that it was the first poker tournament taking place on Russian soil.
2009 – New Regulations
With gambling legal in Russia for almost 20 years, new restrictions were put into place in 2009. The government stated that too many establishments existed that did not follow the set laws of gambling, and that the industry had become “lawless” as a whole, and difficult to properly regulate. As a countermeasure to this, gambling was again restricted in most of Russia.
Gambling remained legal only in four specific zones in the country, where residents would have to travel if wanting to take part in gambling. A similar situation existed in the United States, which led to the popularity of Las Vegas as a gambling location. The zones in which gambling is legal in Russia are the Altai, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, and Primorsky regions, where businesses specifically cater to those looking to play casino games.
Russian Gambling Today
Casino games remain a fun activity for many Russian people, with poker remaining as one of the most popular and widely played games. Many of the best professional poker players in the world are Russian. A debate has raged in the country for many years, with some saying that poker should not be classified as a gambling game, and should become legal nationwide. The argument is based on the fact that poker is a game of chance far more than a game of luck, and so should not be classified as strictly a gambling game.
This argument has yet to be accepted by the government, however, and poker remains legal only in the designated zones in the country. There is talk that the laws around poker may change, however, and if they do you’ll be sure to read all about it right here!