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Gambling in Russia
March 15, 2011 15:25

It's been a long time since Russia's casinos and gambling halls moved to some special remote zones. However, in Moscow the illegal gambling business is still prospering due to corruption.

Neue Zuercher Zeitung magazine notes, that several years ago the Novy Arbat looked like a small Las Vegas. All the street was filled with bright flashing banners, and dozens of luxury limousines parked in front of of numerous temples of gambling. But then all the casinos and gaming halls were sent out from the capital by Russian government. Obeying the casino strategy of Russia’s President, gambling was declared illegal. Half a million people lost their jobs, enriching organized crime and draining tax coffers. However, the game went on behind closed doors.

In spite of a strict prohibition on gambling some illegal casino appear from time to time. Experts of this industry say that the new law serves only for policemen who receive greatest bribes ever from illegal business owners. A few weeks ago it became clear how deep are corruption ties in this business. Russian Federal Security Service found a network of 15 gambling halls in the Moscow region. The total monthly turnover of the network is estimated from 5 to 10 million dollars. During the operation more than 1000 slot machines were confiscated.

According to the Neue Zuercher Zeitung magazine, all these illegal gambling halls were under the auspices of ruling top. The magazine says, a man, named Ivan Nazarov paid a lot to the Attorney General Deputy of Moscow region and to some other prosecutors and police to have an opportunity to focus on his business. All these facts are under investigation at the moment. Nazarov, 30, is a chief coordinator of the illegal gambling network and he was charged with bribery. Investigators also found a connection with Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, exiled in London. During a search in Nazarov's office some documents with Berezovsky name were allegedly found.

This casino scandal has shocked the Russian president, so an order to check out some officials was given. The president also wants to tough measures in place to tackle illegal gambling and criminal activities related to casinos that are "counter to public and social interest".

There is good news for gamblers. The government plans to create four impoverished areas which will soon transform into gambling meccas. The first is nicknamed Vegas East (oficially — Siberian Coin). According to Gadling resource, "the Altai region of Siberia will host the ambitious project located near the boarder of Kazakhstan and China. Russian developers have budgeted about $1 billion for the cause which includes the construction of 15 casinos and 30 hotels". The outside experts expect the project costs to total $50 billion.

Michael Boettcher, president of Storm International, which owned and managed 25 casinos and slot halls throughout Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, says: "To say you're going to build Vegas in Altai — or in Spain or Hungary or France — I tell them every single time, 'You're insane". But, according to the Moscow Times, the government maintains a devoutly pro-Coin attitude. Yelena Vladimirova, assistant to the Altai republic's Shchetinin, says the "official position" is that Siberian Coin will be built — within two years, under budget.


Tags: Moscow Nizhny Novgorod gambling in Russia   

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