Russia says it wants to cut down on the number of accidents on its roads, but the new rules it has imposed seem designed to reduce quite different statistics
It is a coin toss for most as to whether someone believe the most recent incarnation of Russian gambling laws are a sensible separation of gambling into specific strategically chosen regions after a free-for-all era that had thrown up just as many problems as it had solved, or, alternatively, as a governmental fund raising exercise where favored sons of Mother Russia are granted licenses in the new locations and everyone else is left out in the cold.
Certainly the situation was getting out of hand with the number of casinos in some cities being so great that the phrase “spoilt for choice” didn’t do the options on offer justice, Moscow, for instance probably didn’t really need all 58 casinos of the time. Thus it was in 2009 that Vladimir Putin, who was either Prime Minister or President at the time (that sounds vague but he swaps between the two so it doesn’t actually matter which he was at the time) decided to reform the legal framework for gambling.
The plan harkened back to some of the soviet “re-organizations”, with perhaps the most obvious being the relocation of entire industries further east during the Fascist invasion of the forties although similarities with the collectivization of agricultural production might also stand up under more than cursory examination as a comparison. In essence gambling was banned in Russia save for four specific areas, a fifth added in subsequent years.
The areas concerned are huge tracts of the nation, but still it is akin to China with it’s Hong Kong / Macau duopoly, or the old days in the US where just Vegas and Atlantic City permitted gambling. The changes this wrought were profound with the rich traveling to enjoy their gambling and those unable to afford such lavish spending either using illegal gambling avenues or the internet. It still remains to be seen if this massive upheaval has actually decreased problem gambling in Russia.
Nut, Sledgehammer, Sledgehammer, Nut
Not, of course, that Russia is sitting on its hands in the meantime, perhaps gambling news reports in the future will be able to happily announce a fall in the number of people being treated for problem gambling, oh no, they are taking further steps to ensure that. Are they going to run a massive publicity campaign to forestall people from falling prey to problem gambling? Will they be sending victims of this modern day plague to schools to ward children off thinking it’s cool? Is there an illuminating and edifying public debate on the situation about to ensue?
Russia Imposes New Draconian Rules
• Transexual or Transgender people banned from driving
• Gamblers and thieves also prevented from getting license
• Cynical statistic reduction plan or sensible idea?
No. No, of course, not. This is Vlad Putin’s Russia we’re talking about and when it comes to problem solving they have what might be generously termed a direct manner of behavior. The Ukraine is a perfect example. Russia has a phobia about enemies on its doorstep ever since the Germans killed 20 million of them in World War II, the major component of post-war strategic policy was one of buffer zones between Russia proper and it’s perceived enemies.
Ukraine muttering that it might join NATO was simply, in Russian eyes, an unthinkable risk, even if NATO was not an out and out enemy today, is was once, and that isn’t forgotten easily either. So what to do? Simple. Annex one part and start a civil war in the other so complex and chaotic that it’ll take decades to sort out. Problem solved. Sure, it could have started World War III, but then ironically Russia as a nation doesn’t mind gambling big.
It does, however, mind big gamblers and thus it is that in order to reduce the number of problem gamblers Russia has decided to take steps to do just that. Not, it should be pointed out to actually lessen the quantity of people suffering from problem gambling, just the number of them, the statistic, the figures. In what is, frankly, a piece of brazen bigotry and ignorance on Russia’s part new laws have made it impossible for problem gamblers to get a driving license, with that malady joining several other dubious entries on a list of things that prevents one from obtaining permission to use a vehicle.
Does “Pathological” Describe Your Gambling Habits?
The list is a bizarre collection of conditions that the government of Russia now claim make you illegible to use a car……….and when I say bizarre, I really do mean bizarre. Gambling is on there with the largely ambiguous “pathological” modifier before it, as is kleptomania, although how one is to compulsively steal things whilst at the wheel of a moving vehicle isn’t made clear. Nor is it explained how being a kleptomaniac stops you being a safe, sensible driver anyway.
Moving down the list we find ‘fetishism’, ‘exhibitionism’ and ‘voyeurism’ are all listed as “mental disorders” that can bar you from getting a license, as are (and this is where the bigotry comes in) being either transexual or transgender. In 2013 Russia made the promotion of non-traditional lifestyles illegal and this is just another squeeze on the LGBT community, a way to make their lives more difficult to punish them for being different.
Worse still the number of problem gamblers WILL decrease because no one with a gambling problem will now dare tell anyone lest they find themselves unable to get a driving license. The Russian Psychiatric Association’s Valery Evtushenko has admitted some people would now avoid getting help with their problems for fear of the repercussions, and possible driving ban. It is also feared the requirement for a driving license may become ‘de rigueur’ for employers even if the job doesn’t necessitate one.
Whilst the number of road accidents and fatalities in Russia is truly appalling this measure is highly unlikely to significantly reduce that, despite being the much stated aim, it will, however, be extremely effective in cutting the embarrassing statistics that Vlad Putin can’t seem to abide. There will be fewer kleptomaniacs, fewer people who like to bet on sports in Russia, fewer transgender or transsexual people…….they’ll all still be there, but Vlad and his cronies will have criminalized them into silence and the shadows. Disgraceful.