Since Vladimir Putin shut down casinos in the country, the Russian gambling laws only allow for legal land-based casinos in four remote areas. This has led to massive proliferation of illegal casinos, especially around major cities such as Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.
The Russian authorities have responded with a massive crackdown on the illegal gambling dens and, as a result, over 28,000 of these were closed. Moreover, nearly half a million of gambling machines, as well as accessories, have been seized.
In addition, a high rank undercover police officer, Andrei Y., has been arrested under charges of accepting large bribery in order to let casinos, he was supposed to bust, operate. The suspected officer, as rumored, will cooperate with the investigators to have reduced, or even lifted, sentence.
This is not the first upper echelon official who has been caught with involvement in illegal gambling activities. Months ago, a prosecutor, Alexander I., has been charged with operating underground betting shops in Russia which generated as much as $5-10 million in revenues per month. Now, the man is awaiting extradition to Russia from Poland.
Many of the illegal casinos operate masked as gambling clubs or Internet betting shops. That is not to say that all online casinos in Russia are run illegally. Many of these are legitimate offshore sites which the Russian gamblers can access.
So, when entering one of the land-based or online Russian poker rooms, check first to see if the operation is legit. Otherwise, you may find yourself in need of lots of explanations in light of illegal gambling charges.
That is not to say that this situation will last. Now, the Russian Duma is considering a law licensing a limited number of legal casinos near the major cities to combat the illegal counterparts.