Poker league faces closure
The Prosecutor General’s Office on Thursday requested that the Justice Ministry shut down the Russian Federation of Sport Poker, after the card game was removed from a national list of sports amid a broader crackdown on gambling.
The prosecutors said in a statement that the decree removing poker as a sport had also “canceled the accreditation of the Russian Federation of Sport Poker.”
The federation, which was founded in 2006, could not immediately be reached for comment. The body’s registration, issued by the Justice Ministry in 2007, is valid until 2011. A spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry declined to comment when reached on the phone Thursday.
But Vitaly Mutko, the sports, tourism and youth politics minister, told Gazeta.ru that he “doesn’t understand the reason for the statement.” The federation and the sport “are two absolutely different things,” he was quoted as saying.
Under a 2006 law that came into force July 1, all gambling is restricted to four special zones around the country, with the exception of bookmakers, lotteries and poker in specially licensed sports clubs.
But the game — which has enjoyed a boom in recent years with growing television coverage of tournaments and online play — was used by casinos looking for a way to stay in business.
Last month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered loopholes, which had allowed casinos to keep operating as poker clubs, to be closed. The federal sports agency, which included poker on its list of recognized games in 2007, was folded into the Sports, Tourism and Youth Politics Ministry last year.
On July 20, the poker variants Omaha, Texas Hold ‘Em and Seven Card Stud were removed from the approved sports list, drawing protests from the Russian Federation of Sport Poker.
The European Poker Tour said several days later that it had to relocate its first event planned for Russia, moving the Aug. 18-23 tournament to Kiev.