Over the weekend, the access to PokerStars was restricted by a fresh wave of Russian ISP blocking, which led thousands of players from Russia to Russian-language poker forums to display their concerns and displeasure.
PokerStars Russia’s Twitter account confirmed the block and since the operator is in a constant game of cat and mouse with the Russian government, they directly provided a link to a new client restoring access.
Since around September 2015, online gambling sites have been blocked by Government agency Roskomnadzor also known as the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom. Famous sites like William Hill, 888, PokerStars, as well as Russian sports betting sites are all familiar with Roskomnadzor.
In the past few months, Roskomnadzor however upped its game. It disabled access to all content from twitter, NetFlix and Dropbox while disconnecting the entire Amazon’s cloud hosting service in the prevent for running an ad for 888poker.
There is estimated that internationally in total 8.4 percent of PokerStars.com’s player pool are playing poker from Russia. When access is blocked to PokerStars at once by six different ISPs, what recently happened according to Poker Industry Pro, you can imagine the impact it has on PokerStars.com’s ratings in Russia.
For some time now, increased controls are being pushed by Russia. For example, an amendment to a UN telecommunications treaty was proposed in 2012 that would lead to restrict online access
‘where international telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.’
‘Later that year the country’s Supreme Court ruled that ISPs should be made to be responsible for blocking illegal gambling sites. In 2014 it added gambling domains for the first time to a blacklist of websites that included outlets that criticized Putin, as well as those that peddled drugs and pornography.’
Online Poker Regulation in Russia: yes or no?
There is a huge appetite and talent in Russia for online poker. There are vague noises about regulating online poker in Russia following the regulation of sports betting. The Russian government already made the decision to legalize online poker in the opinion of a Moscow politician and lawyer, Alexander Zakondyrin, who informed the Business Insider from the inside in early 2016.
It’s anyone’s guess whether PokerStars will join the party when this will happen.