How to Beat Russia’s Gambling Site Blocks

Last Updated by Gray Williams on October 22, 2018

Once a bastion of Internet freedom of speech, Russia has taken dramatic steps in the other direction in reason years, including blocking access to gambling and gaming sites. If you are a Russian resident or are visiting the country for work or pleasure, you might very well find your online gaming entertainment blocked by censorship from the Russian government.

A Brief History of Russian Gambling Censorship

In June 2016, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor began targeting high-traffic affiliate websites including 118 online casinos and online bookmakers websites. These joined an additional 6,000 gambling and lottery websites that had been targeted since the previous October. The sites were blocked by ruling of the Russian Federal Tax Service which determined that such sites were in violation of its requirements.

Russia and gambling don’t mix as a general rule. The country first banned online gambling in 2006 and gambling in all forms is banned except in four areas of the country.

The 2016 hit on gaming sites extended to the AppStore and Google Play, banning several gaming apps from Russian consumers. Sports media websites are also being hit by the ban, since many of them have direct links to sports book sites.

In 2018, Russia even tried to ban YouTube advertisements for casinos and gaming services. The country’s Internet Video Association had complained about videos in Russian for online casinos appearing on YouTube and file-sharing sites. Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) announced in May that it could only enforce that mandate to the three Russian domains, not to YouTube or other international sites.

That didn’t stop Roskomnadzor from blocking more than 250 torrent and file-sharing websites that have ads for online casinos or bookmakers.

Workarounds for Russian Gambling Censorship

Short of moving to another country, there are three possibilities if you want to visit gambling and gaming websites.

The first is Tor, also known as The Onion Router. Tor is a free software that directs Internet traffic through a series of reroutes. The data is encrypted and then sent through a host of different nodes before finally arriving at the website you are attempting to access. Once it grabs the information you want,it is sent the other way, with your source IP address never being revealed. Some websites raise red flags when they believe they are being accessed by Tor because it disrupts their ability to gather information. Another downside of Tor is that is can be very slow due all the relays that your data passes through.

A cheap solution that has inherent security risks is to use a proxy server. Proxies are simply remote servers located in countries outside of the censorship jurisdiction. That server in turn sends your Internet requests to the website in question. The site sends the data and information requested back through the proxy server to your computer. While most proxies are cheap or free to use, but that low entry free comes at a cost of its own.

Because proxies do not encrypt data before sending it to the Internet or to your computer, your ISP or any other party with access to your IP address can monitor what you are sending in receiving. While a proxy might be able to gain you access to a gaming or gambling site while you are browsing the Internet in Russia, you could easily be caught by your ISP.

The most complete workaround is to use a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent the Russian censorship of gambling and gaming sites. A VPN takes the basic concept of a proxy server and adds layers of security, speed, and reliability, albeit at a cost. In regards to the Russian block on gambling and gaming websites, a VPN would generate a shielded “tunnel” between your computer and one of its own remote servers located outside of Russia. As the consumer, it’s up to you which server you choose, taking into account things like latency (the physical distance a signal will have to travel), how many people are currently using that server, and overall speed.

Once you’ve picked a server and connected, you can begin surfing the Internet through that VPN connection. Your requests for websites will be encrypted at your end, uploaded, and sent to the remote server. Even your ISP cannot see the information you are requesting because of the encryption.

VPNs come in all shapes and sizes, but a good one for novices is SaferVPN. It has a killswitch in case your connection falters and more than 760 servers in some 35 countries.

If your budget is a big concern, then Trust.Zone is a smart choice. It has a great FAQ to answer most questions and gives you unlimited speed and unlimited bandwidth. A great option for more advanced users is NordVPN, which is the top-rated VPN around and offers IP leak protection and 24/7 customer service.

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Gray Williams
Gray Williams is an experienced data and communications engineer and cross-platform copy and content writer and editor with a keen interest in cybersecurity. He has been working with and researching, VPNs and other online privacy tools for many years.