There were once over 30,000 legal and illegal casinos operating in Russia, with as many as 4,000 of them being sanctioned. In 2007 special gambling zones were created, mostly away from population centers, and in 2009 all casinos outside those zones were outlawed. Azov-city escaped the decree and investments flowed in with three casinos opening.

In light of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics the Putin government moved to protect their estimated 1.5 trillion ruble (+/- US$42 billion) investment in Sochi and told casinos in Azov-city they would be shut down, but were welcome to move within the region and set up shop in Sochi.

A deadline of April 1, 2015 was established but some operators took to the courts to be reimbursed for their investments. Some of those proceedings are ongoing, and in the meantime at least two of the casinos continue to operate; Oracul (pictured) and Shambala, while Nirvana appears to have shut down, but this has not been confirmed.

Shambala continued to invest in expansion of their Azov-city casino and in January were granted an unspecified extension of time for their gaming permits until amendments could be made to federal legislation.

Recently, Russian news outlet Kommersant reported that the Territory Property Relations Department has expressed interest in allowing Azov-city operators to continue business at least until the end of 2018. A draft federal law is reportedly in the works that would extend gaming until the end of 2018 and compensate investors in connection with Azoc-city’s liquidation, according to the news agency.

Intel is difficult to confirm on progress for the Sochi casino development with far less transparency than we saw in the Primorye region leading up to Tigre de Cristal opening near Vladivostok last fall. Various reports indicate that one Azov-city operator, also involved in a Primorye casino development, considers it unprofitable if more than one operator is allowed to enter the area. Other reports indicate that the former media center at Gorky Gorod Resort near Sochi is already being transformed into a casino space and may open this summer.

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