Russia has taken another step towards what appears to be the implicit goal of regulating gambling into oblivion, with president Vladimir Putin signing a law on Friday allowing people with gambling addiction to be placed under guardianship. The changes accepted by the country’s legislature follow a string of highly restrictive Russian gambling laws from previous years.
It was only in 2006 that Russia’s highly profitable – and in the 1990’s highly criminalized – casino industry was exiled to the country’s four remote regions, followed by steps against online gambling. Local online casinos in Russia are now outlawed, with the Supreme Court having subsequently made it clear to internet service providers that even as much as discussing the subject of online gambling would not be tolerated. Nevertheless, local players have access to a number of Russian speaking foreign sites.
Under the new rules expected to come into force within days, however, people with gambling addictions – akin to those with alcohol or drug problems – may be ruled “legally incompetent” if their hobby causes financial hardship to their family. Relatives who perceive such hardship may seek an incompetence ruling against the individual, complete with the assignment of a dedicated financial guardian, empowered to supervise the person’s finances very closely.
In most countries gambling addiction is addressed through counseling, therapy and support, but president Putin has chosen a different path. What these draconian Russian gambling news mean for local players is the very real threat of gambling away some of their civil liberties – literally.