Russian Roulette: Gambling in Russia

Gambling has become a precious enticement for swindlers of all kinds, a legal one by the way
"Hermann shuddered; in fact, instead of an ace there lay before him a Queen of Spades. He could not believe his eyes or think how he could have made a mistake.

At that moment it seemed to him that the Queen of Spades screwed up her eyes and gave a meaning smile. He was struck by the extraordinary likeness. . . ." Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades

People learnt about gambling long ago, in the early days of mankind. At first people threw the dice, then they learnt to play cards, roulette and lotteries; the number of other games of chance is increasing every day. All people, men and women of any ages and social positions, are prone to the sin of gambling. People like to feel their adrenalin increase and watch a ball jumping on the red and black sectors of the roulette. People lose entire fortunes, commit murders, and violate the human and divine laws while gambling. Others, on the contrary, sometimes win.

Gambling has become a precious enticement for swindlers of all kinds, a legal one by the way. The number of people addicted to gambling in Moscow makes thousands; more and more casinos and gambling houses is increasing in the city. Experts from the Russian Association of Gambling Business Development say that about half a million people regularly indulge in gambling in Moscow. Psychiatrists at the same time provide quite different information. The head of the extra-hospital aid in the National Narcological Scientific Center Taras Dudko says that the number of people regularly going to Moscow casinos, bookmaking offices and gambling houses is over 1.5 million people.

Gambling business is some kind of an intellectual drug that yields incredible profits. The necessity to establish government control over gambling has been spoken about for a long period already. Otherwise huge sums of money will be involved in gambling and handled without any assignment to the state budget. Besides, the government will not be able to control money inflow into gambling business. This will allow to legally launder money by Russians as well as foreigners. Chairman of the Duma Budgetary Committee Mikhail Zadornov says that lotteries are that sphere of activity where the government has not had control within the past 12 years. Every year, the government receives fewer revenues because of gambling which is $5-15 million; about $300-340 million fall out of the government control.

Until recently, no effective legal basis has been introduced into the gambling business. The law in force "On the gambling tax" was adopted in July 1998; but this is rather a project of the law as it regulates relationship between entrepreneurs in gambling.

Early this week, the Duma Budgetary Committeehave once again touched upon the issue and recommended the chamber to approve the second reading of the bill "On lotteries". This will be the first serious legislative act to regulate activity of the operators on the gambling market.

This bill is expected to fix the rules of play on the lottery market once and for all; the document will also determine the responsibility for any violations in lottery organization. Mikhail Zadornov says that the document provides for administrative responsibility of lottery organizers. "Besides, some amendments to the Criminal Code are to be done to provide for criminal responsibility during organization of lotteries." The bill also stipulates the prize bounties amount which is to make up not less than 50 per cent of the total sum of the lottery and assignment for special social programs, not less than 10 per cent. Companies or individual persons wishing to organize lotteries must first obtain certificates. According to the new bill, target assignments are to be used now to finance important social infrastructure and events, including those meant for sport and culture development. A member of the Duma Budgetary Committee told RBC daily that "lotteries all over the world are the means to distribute earnings between different layers of the population and to finance different social programs."

We should wait and see to what extent this redistribution will prove to be effective in this country. The government will be extremely lucky if it manages to establish control over all big players on the gambling market. Petty swindlers must be the responsibility of law enforcement authorities; the government must prevent creation of more financial pyramids in this country.

This is also very important to protect the younger population from the obtrusive advertising of gambling houses. The problem is that the number of game-playing machines and gambling houses is speedily increasing all over the country. Teenagers miss school or immediately after lessons run to gambling houses to crowd around game-playing machines with the hope of winning some money. And when they lose their money they still find ways to accumulate another sum and feed it to the machines.

Addiction to gambling is the same as drug or alcohol addiction: it cannot be cured; the only way for people to get rid of it is to give it absolutely up and never start it again. There are special clinics for drug and alcohol addicts; unfortunately we have no medical institutions of this kind meant for people addicted to gambling. The state must somehow control the addiction of people to gambling. If the state cannot cultivate some different moral in the people and youth first of all, this state will easily turn into a country of people crazy about easy money.

Igor Kulagin

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Author`s name Michael Simpson