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February 1, 2010

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New casino opens in Russia's remote area

HALF a year after Russia closed all of its gambling casinos and slot-machine halls, the first new casino opened on Saturday under a plan to limit legalized gambling to four comparatively remote areas.

About 500 people showed up for the opening of the Oracle casino in Above City, a gambling zone in southern Russia. But only about 100 of them appeared to be actually placing bets. The casino, in a large shed-like building in a snowy field, has 200 slot machines and 10 table games.

The zone is about 100 kilometers from Rostov-on-Don, the nearest city, and 200 kilometers from Krasnodar.

It's unclear how many Russians will be eager to travel long distances for a gambling excursion, but the casino's operators say they're convinced there's a market and they plan to start building a four-star hotel for gamblers this summer.

"There's a lot of gambling people here" in the region, said Valery Saparin, marketing director for casino operator Royal Time. "We hope that a lot of people will be drawn to us in the near future."

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 provoked distaste among many Russians over the flashy cars parked outside glittering casinos in Moscow and the harm that gambling can do to society.

All the gambling operations were closed on July 1 under a 2006 law.

Gambling is legalized in Azov City, Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, the Altai region of Siberia and the Primorsky region of Russia's Far East.


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