Gambling banned in southern Russia

Casinos and gambling outlets in the southern Russia republic of North Ossetia-Alania have been told to shut down by July 1. The move comes ahead of a federal law, which will see all gaming facilities either closed or moved to special zones by 2009.

The doors of the Treasure Island Casino in the North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz are locked. Like dozens of other gambling spots in the republic, the place was forced to close.

The North Ossetian parliament decided to outlaw gambling in April this year. The owners of the casinos were given three months to relocate their businesses.

For many locals, the new regulation has come not a moment too soon.

North Ossetia-Alania is one of several of Russian republics in the North Caucasus that has banned casinos. The gambling industry bosses didn't believe it could happen. 

In Moscow, the city with the highest number of casinos in the country, people are still refusing to believe in the possibility of a ban.

“We really do not believe that the casinos will be moved out of the cities because it is obviously a political move,” Lavrenty Gubin from Storm International Gaming Co.

But despite opposition from the gambling lobby, the Russian State Duma has approved a country-wide ban that will take effect in less than two years. Until then it’s up to regional authorities to decide whether casinos should stay or go.

“Casinos must not be located where they can influence children. When a person walks by a casino, he might think: why work? Why bother at all if I can walk in and win? The temptation of easy money influences people a lot,” believes State Duma depuy Andrey Samoshin.

But the law will provide opportunities for gambling . In 2009,four special zones  will be established across the country, allowing the development of a gambling industry.

As gambling regulations were delegated to local authorities, many Russian regions have decided to get rid of casinos immediately. But gambling itself will remain legal in Russia. In a year or two all gamblers will have an opportunity to travel to a special zone, where they can win, or lose as much as they want.