Russian finance minister seeks to capture ‘grey’ market gambling revenue

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Russia plans to to bring ‘transparency’ to its grey market gambling sector, although it’s unclear whether this includes online gambling operators.

On Wednesday, Interfax quoted Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov (pictured) saying his ministry had prepared legislation to regulate ‘grey’ market gambling “to make it transparent and to bring the treasury revenues which are now hiding.” Siluanov said significant grey operations were “still present in the segment of games of chance.”

Interfax claimed Siluanov was referring to ‘one-armed bandits,’ aka gaming devices in land-based businesses, which are illegal outside of Russia’s designated casino zones.

But in last week’s annual televised Q&A, Russian president and occasional Bond villain Vladimir Putin claimed his government remained opposed to authorizing video lottery terminals outside these official zones, so it remains unclear exactly what ‘grey’ revenues Siluanov’s legislation hopes to capture.

Russia has recently taken steps to formally regulate its online sports betting market, which included a 100x rise in online betting duties and a requirement that all financial transactions be funneled through centralized hubs so the government could keep track of online betting activity.

Russia’s stance on online poker has been harder to read, with companies like Amaya Gaming predicting imminent regulation for its PokerStars brand, despite far more ambivalent signals from Russian officials.

Russia’s approach to online casino gaming has been unequivocally negative, and this month saw Maxim Suraykin, leader of the Communists of Russia party, formally ask the head of Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor why online casino apps were available in the Russian App Store and Google Play sites when the activity was explicitly forbidden.

Russia’s approach to international online operators has been equally harsh, and the Interfax report noted that legislation was in the works to prohibit banks from processing gambling transactions for operators not explicitly authorized to do business with Russian punters.

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