Russian Casinos Converting to Poker to Avoid Gambling Law
Russian law considers poker to be a competitive sport rather than gambling. This allows casinos in Moscow expected to close following the passage of a gambling ban in the city to stay open by nominally becoming poker rooms.
The Russian government wants to limit the proliferation of casino gambling. Almost 600 gaming venues exist in the Moscow area. But a new regulation would close gambling operations not located in one of four gambling zones created by the government in areas well outside Moscow.
Operators are resisting the change by reinventing their gaming businesses in other formats. Moscow officials are estimating ninety percent of the casinos will continue with business as usual, passing themselves off as poker establishments or even restaurants and entertainment centers.
The gambling zone plan was to be fully enacted by this summer, but only three of the four gaming districts have even been configured so far. State officials recognize it may take more legislation to make any change in the city's casino industry.
"This game (poker) doesn't have any connection to the gambling business," said a spokesman for the Russian Gaming Business Association, in response to charges that conversions to poker rooms were merely cosmetic.
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