Just over one year ago, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin signed a bill that disallows any payment by cards in favour of foreign institutions. This bill is starting to have an even greater impact on Russia’s gambling community, as several poker sites have now been blocked by the country’s biggest bank.
In order to comply with the new Federal Law No. 244, Sberbank confirmed that it has taken action against payments being processed to popular online poker and gambling platforms. A statement from the bank said that, “Sberbank always complies with the laws of the Russian Federation…”, before finishing off by explaining that it will not be blocking payments to establishments located within Russia.
It was on November 27, 2017 that Putin signed the bill, which was due to come into effect on May 26 of this year. However, the community only felt the effects of the law when Sberbank chose to proceed with blocking payments to foreign-based sites on October 19.
In several Russian poker forums, players noted experiencing transactions fails, which were followed up by SMS messages explaining that the payments could not be made in favour of foreign-based platforms.
So, Which Sites Are Blocked?
Several poker sites have been blacklisted by the Russian government prior to the introduction of the law, although players could use VPNs to access the platforms anyway. With the blocking of transactions by Sberbank though, poker players no longer have the opportunity to deposit at blacklisted sites like PokerStars, 888Poker or PartyPoker.
This does also pertain to casino sites and sportsbooks that are based offshore, with the blacklist being quite lengthy already. Other sites included on it are William Hill, Bet365 and Unibet. According to some reports, over 76,000 domains have been added to the blacklist in 2018 alone, which is an increase of 269% from last year. Not only that, but the law in Russia states that internet service providers must block all access to these sites, while blocks must do the same with transactions.
For the moment, bank transactions aren’t possible to the blacklisted platforms. However, players can still make use of e-wallets to deposit, such as Neteller or Skrill. These payment providers are not within Russian law, so transactions to poker sites cannot be blocked. However, reports suggest that Sberbank has blocked citizens from uploading funds to these wallets.