Streetwise Professor: Bootleggers and Baptists in Russia

Michael Giberson

Craig Pirrong, blogging at Streetwise Professor, posts “Bug or Feature?, or Bootleggers and Baptists Go To Russia.”

I have been told by people who were involved in the “gaming industry” in Russia pre-ban that even legal operations had to pay to survive.  But “banning” the activity only enhances the authorities’ opportunities for personal enrichment.  Thus, it is more than plausible that this was a major reason behind the ban: that is, many of the ban supporters didn’t intend to reduce gambling, but to increase their take from it.

No doubt there were some in Russia who sincerely believed that banning gambling was a desirable social goal.  But just as bootleggers in the American South who profited from the banning of alcohol benefited from the well-intentioned efforts of Baptists to drive out the demon rum, the sincere opponents of gambling in Russia were played, and played well, by those who cynically saw the ban as an opportunity.