Russia’s telecom watchdog has registered a sharp rise in the number of complaints about illegal gambling during the first half of the year. The federal agency in question, Roskomnadzor, reported that more than 38,700 complaints on the subject of online gambling distribution were logged in from the months of January to June. This represents a massive 235% increase on a year to year basis.
Roskomnadzor also said that other complaints had also grown over the previous year. For instance, there were 21,000 complaints regarding child pornography and 19,000 regarding websites that promoted suicide. The subject of drug use also seems to have attracted a lot of attention, with 39,000 reports being received by the online regulator whose business it is to regulate whether Russians are accessing illegal information on the internet.
All in all, the agency received around 118,000 reports on illegal online activities during the first six months of the year. Of these, around 52,000 will be investigated further. The agency has announced that it will forward the concerned links to experts in the respective fields so that they will determine whether the sites in question are indeed dealing in prohibited information.
Roskomnadzor was set up in 2008 to enable the Russian government to keep an eye on its citizens online activities. It doesn’t just regulate the activities of electronic media but also keeps track of telecommunications and mass media. It is clear to see that the agency is a very powerful one with a wide reach.
As far as the online gambling industry is concerned, Roskomnadzor is one that operators fear the most because of its trigger-happy nature. While other gambling regulators in Europe do have online gambling blacklists to which they add the names of operators from time to time, the Russian regulator has been the most active so far. The Russian government has banned online poker and casinos entirely. While it does permit sports betting, it does not give licenses to international operator easily. Russians are avid gamblers and therefore a flourishing illegal market in online gambling exists.
The Russian watchdog had blocked access to almost 16000 domains in 2016. As a matter of fact, its blacklist went up by 5,273 gambling sites just in the month of June. Strangely enough, even Google.ru was added to this list because users were accidentally diverted to popular Russian bookmaker Fonbet.
The Russian telecom watchdog agency has been keeping a wary eye on e-Sports as well. Many skin betting services offering Russian language eSports gaming have also been blacklisted recently. These include csgofast.com, csgo.tm, and skingames.co.
New Legislation to Control Online Gambling
The Russian government added to its tough stance against gambling by approving the third and final reading of a new law that will prohibit the use of proxy services such as virtual private networks (VPNs) because Russians have been using them to get past Roskomnadzor’s restrictions on what they can do on the internet. Needless to say, this has raised the ire of human rights organizations who say that the new law will be used to stifle free speech.
The country’s Ministry of Communications recently released a draft document that outlines plans to permit the online watchdog to block access to mirror sites of domains that are on its blacklist. The online list will no doubt expand when the new rule comes into force since many of the blocked sites redirect to others that have similar data and features. In fact, the regulator is putting in a great deal of effort to stay a couple of steps ahead of operators so that Russians have almost no chance of gambling on the internet.