Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on the latest regulations establishing new gambling zones in the country.
Great news for casino developers, Russia is open for business! According to a statement published on an official website, the updated Russian gambling laws will allow a whole new industry to flourish in the country. In addition to bringing casinos to Crimea, politicians have also decided to extend the Krasnodar gambling zone all the way to Sochi.
It has been five years since Moscow officials introduced a ban on gambling in Russia. Four special designated areas across the country did have casinos; now their number has grown to five. Apart from Crimea, gambling is legal in Kaliningrad near the Baltic Sea, the Far East, Siberia’s Altai Region, and southern Krasnodar.
Embracing new investments
Here are a few online casinos and betting sites that accept players from Russia:
The borders of the new gambling zone are yet to be determined by local authorities, but officials say they will consider two options – either spreading casinos across the entire peninsula, or establishing a clear gambling area on the south coast, near the town of Yalta. This is where the majority of resorts are located.
Meanwhile, officials have approved another proposal to extend the borders of the Krasnodar gambling zone, in order to include the territory of Sochi. Authorities are planning to allow casinos to be built near the Olympic village.
The whole purpose of opening up the gambling market in Crimea is to attract investors and casino developers have shown interest in building resorts in Russia. For the local government, this will mean higher tax revenues, more tourists and new jobs.
On March 18, politicians signed a treaty allowing Crimea to reunite with Russia, two days after a referendum was held. More than 96% of voters supported the integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation and refused to recognize the new Kiev government.
Partial ban on gambling
In 2007, the Russian Federation approved a new law which banned casino games. The regulations only came into force on July 1, 2009, but gambling venues were still allowed in four remote areas of the country.
As of 2006, there would be no online casinos in Russia either, except for a few foreign-based ones. Some of these websites cater to local players and offer services in Russian, as well as in other languages, but authorities have started to block unwanted operators.
The first casino located in a special gambling zone opened at the beginning of 2010, seven months after all other gambling establishments across the country had to close or move to one of the new legal locations. It was ran by the Royal Time company from the Volga Republic of Tatarstan, offering visitors a slot machine arcade, casino games, a VIP hall, a restaurant and a free bar with snacks and coffee.
Meanwhile, companies that had been present on the Russian gambling market before the ban asked authorities to reconsider the proposal, or at least delay it and allow the designated areas to develop economically before forcing companies to move there. Owners feared that moving to the new casino closures, located in poorer areas, would mean the end of their business.
But authorities rejected their request, despite admitting that launching the new gambling zones would take a few years.
Casino ban does more harm than good
In the meantime, illegal gambling is thriving in the country, so regulating the market and having some sort of control over it is clearly better than prohibiting it. Since the casino ban in 2009, Russian police has shut down about 61,000 illegal casinos.
Over the past five years, the state cashed in a total of 602 million rubles or $17.1 million in fines from criminals running underground casino operations across the country. According to a report released by the policed and published earlier this year, almost 800,000 slot machines were confiscated, along with various other machines and gaming equipment.
The police admitted that the 2007 law, which came into force in 2009, has caused the number of illegal casinos to skyrocket. Many of them are disguised as Internet clubs or bingo halls and criminal activity has increased alarmingly, creating opportunities for corruption.
The new law should indeed create an opportunity for development in Crimea. Now we’ll see what kind of plans investors come forward with.