In October 2006, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill implementing changes to Russia’s gambling laws which severely limited the availability of casinos across the country. While slots parlors, casinos and Russian poker rooms were once widespread, the new rules closed down all casinos and other gambling centers in major cities across the nation, and in their place established four “casino zones” scattered across Russia. Only in these dedicated zones are casinos legal.
The wrench is now being turned tighter, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has just made another change to Russian gambling laws. The President this week signed a decree banning casinos from the Rostov Region, which forms part of the southern Azov City casino zone. While the 2006 law contained a clause stating that the government must wait 10 years before dropping one of the established casino zones, Medvedev bypassed the rule by simply removing it. The bill moved through the system extremely quickly – it was submitted on October 4, and passed into law on November 3.
The goal of the change is to relocate the southern Russian gambling zone away from the Azov Sea and towards the Black Sea coast in order to make use of the region’s tourist draw. Rostov officials are understandably upset, and are doing what they can to fight for their right to be part of the Azov City zone, but they know they have little chance of being heard. At this point, they are at least hoping that the 1 billion rubles ($32 million) in losses that the region faces will be compensated for from the federal budget.
Meanwhile, President Medvedev is calling for sterner measures to combat illegal gambling, both in the form of underground casinos and of unlicensed online gambling sites in Russia. Mevedev is calling for the severe punishments for offenders. “Those involved in such gambling businesses should be imprisoned,” he said in a meeting Moscow City Mayor Sergei Sobyanin this week.