Gambling, casinos, slot halls and online casinos in Russia
Gambling was banned across Russian territories in 1928. Lottery and horse racing were the only forms of gambling allowed within the country. In 1988, slot machines were first introduced at Intourist hotels. In 1989, the blanket ban on gambling was lifted, and the first gambling house was opened in the capital. Casinos started appearing quickly in Russia, especially in Moscow. Gambling was legally allowed across the country until 2009 when four legalized gambling zones in order to accommodate tourist gambling were created. Gambling (in casinos and slot halls) was banned in all other areas of Russia. The four specially arranged zones in the Altai, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, and Primorsky Regions became the only exceptions.
Currently, land-based gambling in Russia is completely legal in four regional subject areas. Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi) became a new gambling zone in 2016. Meanwhile, the oldest gambling zone in Russia, Azov City, was abolished as only one gambling zone can operate within a Russian Federation entity. All gambling establishments in Azov City were closed starting from 2019. In October 2019, the creation of the fifth gambling zone, the Golden Coast, in Yalta, within the Republic of Crimea, was confirmed. State-run lotteries, totalizers, and bookmakers’ offices are legal across all Russia. Sports betting and lottery tickets are also available online. Online casino gambling is completely banned in the country.
The main beneficiaries of the gambling revenue are regional budgets. Both gambling tax and income tax are regional taxes. The income tax is applied to all winnings gamblers may earn when gambling in Russia. The legal gambling age in the country is 18.
Laws and Regulators
Law No. 244 On State Regulation and Management of Gambling, which came into effect in 2007, regulates gambling in Russia. The Law permits gambling in casinos and slot halls only within specially designated gambling zones. Bookmakers’ offices and totalizers are allowed to operate in all Russian regions. Online casinos are banned. This gambling legislation is supplemented by the governmental regulations and acts of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation in the field of organization and conduct of gambling.
The Ministry of Finance determines the gambling policy and shapes gambling legislation in Russia. The Federal Tax Service (FTS) regulates the gambling sector in the country. The FTS grants gambling licenses, supervises and controls Russian legalized gambling operators. Gambling licensing includes only one activity – the organization and arrangement of gambling in bookmakers’ offices and totalizators. Gambling operations in casinos and slot halls are completely substituted with a system of permits and shift to a regional level.
Land Based Casinos
Under the existing gambling legislation, casinos can only operate within the four gambling zones in Russia. The zones were centrally set, but not by request by the regions themselves. The most profitable gambling zone is in Sochi. The customer service area for gamblers in casinos cannot be less than 800 m2 and must feature at least ten gaming tables. The slot machine zone cannot be less than 100 m2 and must feature at least 50 slot machines. The average winnings from a slot machine cannot be less than 90%.
Primorye gambling zone is located 70 km from Vladivostok. It opened in 2015. Tigre de Cristal Casino operates on its territory. The casino has more than 300 gaming machines and 65 gaming tables. Among them, there are more than 50 regular tables and VIP tables offering Russian Poker, Casino Texas, Roulette, Baccarat, Sic Bo, and Blackjack. Players are offered a variety of video slot games including those on Novomatic and Spielo machines.
Krasnaya Polyana is a gambling zone in Sochi, where Sochi Casino opened in 2017. The facilities of Sochi Casino include 442 slot terminals, 70 gaming tables, including 22 American Roulette tables, 38 tables for Black Jack, Russian Poker, Casino Texas Hold’em, Baccarat, and a separate Poker Room with 10 tables for Club Texas Hold’em. The total capacity of the casino is up to 2,000 people. The second casino, Boomerang Casino, opened in 2019. The casino offers 20 gaming tables and more than 200 slot machines.
Yantarnaya, a gambling zone in the Kaliningrad region, offered its first gambling club in 2016. Magic Cristal gambling club originally offered two halls and 150 gambling machines. In January, 2017, the official opening of Sobranie Casino took place. There are 350 slot machines and 14 gaming tables. The casino is open 24/7.
Siberian Coin is a gambling zone in the Altai Territory. Altai Palace Casino started operating in 2014. The casino offers table games, including American Roulette, Russian Poker, Casino Texas, Blackjack, Baccarat, etc., and a great variety of modern slot machines. A poker club is also available.
Golden Cost (Crimea) is the fifth government designated gambling zone. The region is expected to become a VIP-oriented gaming hub to attract visitors from overseas and open for business operation by the end of 2022.
Online casino gambling is banned in Russia. The ban includes all gambling operations using information and telecommunication networks (the Internet) and communication means (mobile communications). The government demands to ISPs block gambling-related websites to all Russian-based devices to prevent Russian players from accessing foreign-based online casinos.