Poker Filling Moscow's Casino Gap as Gambling Ban Continues
After a week of living under the new law in Russia outlawing casino gambling, Moscow residents are reacting in different ways. While high-rollers sally forth across national boundaries in search of casinos carrying their favorite games, many unable to afford international travel are picking up poker.
Poker is still legal in Russia, while slot machine gaming has been relegated to four distant gaming zones which do not even have casino facilities yet. Bookmaking, lotteries, and poker are not affected by the ban, and many casinos are switching their formats to become poker rooms.
The Moscow Times says Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov claims 95 percent of casinos have removed their games from the premises. Some straggling casinos are being reported, leading to the citation of owners and the confiscation of slots.
Poker insiders, perhaps mindful of attracting undesired government attention, say the gamblers switching to poker will be a short-lived fad.
“Poker is a more intellectual game," said Erik Shakhbazyan, CEO of Poker Style Group. "To play slot machines, you don’t need to know anything.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says gambling had scourged the country like drug addiction, and Russia is better off with it tightly controlled, in small areas. But Russia does not consider poker, being a game of skill, to be gambling.
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