In Russia, the man behind two casinos in the region around the town of Azov has reportedly declared that he is interested in opening a gaming facility in the recently-established Crimea gambling zone so long as authorities can guarantee that any such new venue would not be subsequently ordered to close.

According to a report from Asia Gaming Brief citing an article in the Russian-language Kommersant newspaper, Maxim Smolentsev runs a pair of casinos in the Azov zone including the Shambala Casino but the passage of new legislation means that he will be forced to close these enterprises by the final day of next year.

Asia Gaming Brief reported that federal legislation signed in 2009 made casino gambling in Russia illegal with the exception of four disparate regions encompassing the far eastern Primorsky Krai, the Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic Sea, Central Asia’s Altai Krai and the area around Azov. But, President Vladimir Putin reportedly approved an amendment to this measure in May of last year that is to force gambling establishments near Azov to close in favor of the nearby Krasnaya Polyana area around Sochi, which was added to the list of permitted zones in 2014.

Following political instability in the Ukraine, Russia controversially annexed Crimea three years ago before reportedly authorizing the area as its latest casino-friendly zone in June of 2016. The Black Sea peninsula with its warm weather and white sand beaches has long been a destination for holidaymakers and Putin now hopes his efforts will transform the area into one of Eastern Europe’s leading tourist centers.

However, Smolentsev reportedly wants some assurances that the Azov situation will not be repeated before he agrees to open a gambling establishment in Crimea while he further complained at not being able to find new homes for his Azov casinos in the area near Sochi.

“I wrote a letter asking to rent facilities [in Sochi] but received no reply,” Smolentsev reportedly told Kommersant. “The same situation happened with the gambling zone in Anapa. We were not even allowed to participate in the auction.”
In addition, David Baghiyan, Deputy Marketing Director for Smolentsev’s Azov operations, reportedly told Kommersant that he had yet to receive any guidelines from Moscow regarding the amount his employer would be expected to pay in order to open a new casino in Crimea.

“We are ready to participate in many projects but the main thing is to know the exact conditions; they must be clear and transparent,” Baghiyan reportedly told Kommersant. “In Crimea, it is still unclear what the site looks like, what is the situation with communications, infrastructure and so on. Investments in the opening of Azov amounted to $176.82 million if we don’t count the state money. It is difficult to understand how much one has to invest in the gambling zone in Crimea. If there are roads, power capacity [or] gas [as] this can significantly reduce costs.”

Baghiyan moreover reportedly explained that Smolentsev’s Azov casinos had paid approximately $3.53 million in taxes last year while additionally revealing that his employer had invested around $35.35 million in the two businesses but is now unlikely to receive any compensation.

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