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Russia In a Legal Battle With YouTube over Online Casino Advertisements

Russian authorities are looking into Youtube for violation of its advertising laws. They accuse YouTube of promoting illegal online casinos as well as bitcoin casinos advertisements. The country’s anti-monopoly watchdog is known as the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS). This agency received a complaint from intellectual property rights holders through their umbrella Internet Video Association (IVA). They said that YouTube allowed videos in the Russian language advertising unauthorized online gambling sites.

Russian reporters suggest that legal action in March commenced after YouTube continued to display illegal adverts in spite of the warnings. FAS gave YouTube a notice to filter the said advertisements in mid-April that the Google-owned site has not complied. FAS, therefore, pursued the action against YouTube using Article 27 of the Russian enacted law on an advertisement that prohibits advertising on gambling.

Online gambling in Russia is illegal due to a total ban on it. However, online gambling in the country is prominent. A host of Curacao licensed gambling sites, most under the so-called ‘Vulkan family’ continue to operate illegally in Russia. Azino 777 and Admiral X ranked high in the most-viewed online video advertising sites with Azino 777 coming at number 14 in the top 20 ranking. It was quite a feat ranking alongside the global giants like Coca-Cola and L’Oreal.

IVA’s director Alexei Byrdin was appalled that the advert could receive that many views. Meanwhile, Roskomnadzor, the telecom watchdog blocked 62,734 gambling domains and an additional 6,200 in February. 318 of the blocked domains are affiliated to the Vulkan family. The controversial Azino 777 video received 7.5 Million views. Byrdin said in a statement that he was ‘shocked’ by Roskomnadzor’s ‘ineffective banning tools’.

This comes ahead of the Federal Law 358-F2 coming up on May 27 which seeks to implement regulations on internationally licensed sites. Essentially, they wish to stem Russian dominance on the online gambling space. Despite the ban, Russians show great interest in online gambling and cryptocurrencies. Last year, the 11th Russian gaming week in Moscow discussed the future of online gambling, so the interest is evident. These regulations will help stop sites such as Admiral X which is licensed in Curacao from operating in Russia. This may succeed where banning of domains have failed. The law will compel financial institutions to refuse payments to sites which do not have Russian online sports betting license. Failure to comply will attract penalties. Companies which violate this law will get blacklisted. They could also lose the right to operate in Russia.

While illegal sites run within the country, others have opted to operate from other countries. Last month, Ukrainian cyber police and prosecutors in Kiev raided an operation base suspected to be run by Russians. The authorities investigated 15 unauthorized online gambling sites where 8 of them are said to be linked to the infamous Vulkan family. The operators are suspected to be Russians who fled Russia after the 2013 ban. Ukraine had an early ban in almost all aspects of gambling in 2009. The Russian operators within the country continued their trade by giving instructions to users on how to conceal their IP addresses.

Longstanding anti-gambling stance

Russia has a long history with its anti-gambling stance, as do many countries that ban bitcoin online gambling. Gambling in all forms was totally banned in 1928 when it was still under the Soviet rule until the late 1980’s. The 1988 legalization of slot machines had some sort of ‘gamble rush’ going on up until 2002. The freedom of gambling without regulations came to an abrupt end in 2006 when a law was passed prohibiting online gambling. By 2009, land-based gambling was available in four zones only while the rest of the country remained banned to date.

Restrictive measures and regulations continue to tighten. The 358-FZ law is set to make it harder for Russians to participate in online gambling. Legal sites in other countries which cashed in from offering services to Russians through their sites are folding up as May 27 closes in.

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