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Finance Ministry joins illegal gambling crackdown

Russian Finance Ministry has initiated amendments to the law on the securities market, which are aimed at preventing the conduct of gambling activities posing as financial activities in the securities market.

According to the amendments, the Russian Central Bank may revoke a license for professional activities in the securities market, if a professional securities market participant is subject to administrative responsibility for illegal organization and (or) conduct of gaming activities, as well as for violating the law on lotteries (since 1 July 2014 non-state lotteries have been outlawed in Russia).

In October 2015, the Russian Central Bank announced its plans to conduct audits of companies that offer unlicensed gambling services under the guise of brokerage transactions.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, which has recently intensified its efforts to block illegal gambling websites on Russian territory (it blocked over 350 such websites since 1 August to 7 August alone), sent letters to major banks and payment systems asking them to check whether their clients and partners service illegal casinos on the web. The move was criticized by some bookmakers, such as Darina Denisova, who heads the self-regulating organization Association of Bookmaking Shops.

She told Russian publication Betting Business Russia that Roskomnadzor's initiative is "an excess of its powers" as the agency cannot impose restrictions on the banking sector.

"The initiative to introduce restrictions on these operations [transfer of money to offshore betting companies] could adversely affect the activities of Russian bookmakers who are preparing to accept bets online. This is due to the fact that it will be extended to ban banks from transferring funds in the form of a rate to Russian bookmakers," Denisova said. Apparently, she was referring to the Russian bookmakers who have not yet been connected to a new online payment processor TSUPIS.

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