Russia’s State Duma (Lower House) has passed a bill banning players from playing online poker outside of Russia’s four designated areas. The bill—which now goes before the Federation Council (Upper House)—would impose heavy fines and possible jail time on illegal players.
The bill makes playing online poker inside Russia a criminal offense, except in the four designated areas. Players would face a 500,000 ruble ($7,625) fine or up to two years in prison.
Illegal operators would face fines of millions of rubles, and up to seven years in prison.
Russia had seemed interested in allowing Western online gambling sites to operate in the country—generating taxes—but has performed a quick turnaround on the issue. Some analysts speculate that the new hardline on Western gambling is designed to deflect attention away from charges of corruption in Vladimir Putin’s government.