International iGaming Watch: Trouble in Russia, Cyprus

If you thought online gambling laws were bad where you live, then, presumably, you don’t live in Russia or Cyprus.

Those two countries already have bad track records for Internet gambling freedom, and that’s only getting worse. In Russia, the government has moved on from banning almost all land-based gambling to cracking down on online casinos and Internet poker rooms, too.

A new bill introduced by Russian politician Ivan Savvidi “proposes fines between 500 and 2000 roubles for people gambling outside of the official gambling zones using mobile networks and Internet, meaning that online casinos and poker will be illegal in Russia,” according to the Moscow News.

Say what you will about the UIGEA, but it doesn’t specifically outlaw online gambling on those terms, nor does it target the gamblers, only the banks. Russia’s approach is more strict: “Previously the law only concerned organisers of gambling, and now the gamblers themselves will also be responsible,” Savvidi was quoted in the article.

And the island nation of Cyprus has experienced actual violence, some of it pretty extreme, over its online gaming laws, reports the Cyprus Mail, which describes torture, kidnapping, and related suicides in detail.

Part of the problem, as with the U.S., is that the legality of online gambling is sort of undefined in the country. “At the moment there is no law which states online gambling is illegal in Cyprus,” a betting shop owner relates in another Cyprus Mail article, “ … so, then the only other thing to call it is legal.”

Cyprus legislators are hoping to change that situation by completely banning online gambling, but they have to get EU approval first. In the meantime, authorities will likely continue to be overwhelmed by the power of the gambling cartels. Some major online casinos are already leaving the Cyprus market, reports

So, will watching online gambling break down into Mexican drug war levels of violence in other countries help lawmakers in the U.S. understand the dangers of unregulated Internet gambling? Probably not, but at least compared to this, the United States’ anti-online gambling law, the UIGEA, doesn’t seem so bad. (Especially considering that proposed changes to it might be bad for affiliates.)