|Casinos close in Moscow|
|RUSSIAN gamblers placed their final bets yesterday before casinos close down for good in Moscow and other big cities.|
|02 July 2009|
|RUSSIAN gamblers placed their final bets yesterday before casinos close down for good in Moscow and other big cities.
A new law that comes into effect today says gambling must now be confined to four far-flung special zones.
These zones are all at least 1,000km from Moscow and have undeveloped infrastructure, making it improbable that they can be turned into Russian versions of Las Vegas any time soon.
Casinos mushroomed in Russia’s cities after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and slot machines quickly spread beyond gaming halls to shops and malls.
The spread of gambling has provoked distaste among many Russians over the flashy cars parked outside glittering casinos in Russia’s capital and the harm that gambling can do to society.
‘Let them close,’ Galina Beleznikova, a 65-year old retiree who has seen friends lose their homes and their families because of gambling addictions, told AP.
‘For that matter, get them out of Russia altogether.’
A French expatriate in Moscow who has been gambling at casinos in the Russian capital regularly since 2003 told AFP: ‘It is not unfortunate for me, because I am a prisoner of this system.
‘I had to take out loans of up to 3,500 euros ($7,000) to pay back my debts,’ said the Frenchman, a self-described gambling addict who asked to remain anonymous.
Although the law was signed in 2006 during Vladimir Putin’s presidency, many casino owners did not expect the closures to actually take place. Mr Putin is now Russia’s prime minister.
Mr Putin, who backed the casino law as part of a broader drive to rein in the excesses of the 1990s, cited gambling addiction as a key reason for tighter controls over the gaming industry.
Critics say the move will merely push gaming underground, leaving 400,000 people without legal jobs amid the country’s economic crisis.