Breaches of anti-gambling legislation have become so widespread that Dmitry Medvedev proposed introducing specific criminal liability for running illegal gambling businesses.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Chaika, there is an issue that has gotten a lot of attention from the public – the issue of gambling business. We have passed a strict law and various instructions have been given, but nevertheless, unfortunately, there is a plethora of activity by individuals who disguise gambling as other kinds of lawful operations. There are many examples of this.
Not long ago, I instructed the Government to prepare a draft law to close these loopholes for people who wish to run gambling business under the cover of lawful activities. Still, public activity in this area has not gone down. I took a look, and there is even a special website called ‘Where to find casinos.’ You know, it’s just astounding: it contains a list with an enormous number of Russian cities, and each of these cities, even the small ones, has at least a few of these casinos. I am not even talking about cities like St Petersburg or Moscow. I simply open the website and see hundreds of illegal casinos. And indeed, they are marked on the map, along with their addresses. For example, in St Petersburg, there is a private, unmarked gaming club at 22, Stremyannaya street, or another one at 5, Marat street; or the Rusloto on Lenya Golikov street; and so on.
“Not long ago, I instructed the Government to prepare a draft law to close these loopholes for people who wish to run gambling business under the cover of lawful activities.”
My suggestion is as follows. When it comes to this kind of public activity, we must welcome our citizens’ attention to law compliance in every way. I would like you to instruct the prosecutors to look into everything this site contains, to check every city – we have prosecutor’s offices everywhere, in every relatively small town, not to mention our regions and republics. We need them to visit every one of these locations together with other law enforcement agencies – like the Ministry of the Interior and others, if necessary – and see what’s going on there. Overall, if even a part of this information is true, then this is a cynical manipulation of the law, or its outright violation. Because in addition to establishments that are mimicking lawful activities, there are also underground locations which are entirely illegal, but which are functioning as private clubs.
This is an important issue, especially since, as you know, casinos always attract criminals, people who evade taxes, etc. Please take care of this and carry out an investigation, including into the public sources available on the Internet. Incidentally, this is a very well-prepared website where new locations are posted literally every day.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika: We are using it, Mr President. You are absolutely right in saying that today, it is very simple to charge someone with running an illegal business, but the article’s sanctions absolutely do not reflect the degree of danger posed by violations resulting from illegal gaming business. Thus, you were absolutely right in giving instructions stating that we need a special structure for increasing criminal liability for such violations of the law.
Today, we have already launched 900 criminal cases, and the vast majority of them – involving illegal enterprise have reached the courts.
Dmitry Medvedev: Do you mean casinos, or other businesses?
Yury Chaika: Yes, these are all casinos.
Dmitry Medvedev: The gaming business, right?
Yury Chaikia: We have 934 criminal cases. Of course, on the one hand, this seems like a lot, but on the other hand, again, the sanctions do not reflect how dangerous this crime is.
Today, based on your instructions, we are already preparing amendments to current legislation. They should provide for a special structure. On Saturday, four of our teams returned from their missions. Using our central office staff, we inspected four major regions: Stavropol Territory, Sverdlovsk, Samara and Moscow regions.
“If there are so many violations of the law in this area, we can introduce a separate statute on criminal liability for corresponding crimes in the gambling sector and introduce very strict punitive measures.”
Today, I received a report on the preliminary results of this inspection. We are using this website, monitoring it. Based on your instructions, I will certainly send a message to the field offices instructing them to carry out inspections and investigations. The message will literally be sent out today.
But it is imperative to pass as harsh a law as possible. And we need to have a special structure. We are beginning a discussion on what violations should be prosecuted. Based on judicial practice, about 700 of the 934 cases involve ‘illegal enterprise.’
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I do not want to prejudge legal rulings or judicial frameworks that could be prepared, but if there are so many violations of the law in this area, and we are talking about both pseudo-legal activities and absolutely illegal ones, we can ultimately just criminalise individual types of activities – in other words, we can introduce a separate statute on criminal liability for corresponding crimes in the gambling sector.
In other words, instead of using the general structure you are speaking about, we could establish a special structure, and use it to introduce very strict punitive measures. We do not always resort to this, but let’s take into account that the people involved are, frankly, completely shameless and don’t care a doit about the laws or those who try to comply with these laws, they simply manipulate this legislation. What must we do? I always try to defend business when necessary, but unfortunately, these businesses are in conflict with public interest and are run against the law. Let’s think about introducing special criminal liability for running a gambling business.
Yury Chaika: We have already prepared our suggestions.
Dmitry Medvedev: You have heard the idea I spoke about. Please consider simply criminalising a specific type of illegal activity.