Prisoners of the gambling zone

Gamblers stuck at Tatarstan tables
Forty gamblers have been taken hostage at an illegal gambling club in Naberezhnye Chelny in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan.

­According to local journalists, they got a call from the club’s owner, who reported that unknown perpetrators had blocked all the entrances with 40 customers inside. Reportedly the space was rented by people who illegally established a gambling zone there. But to avoid sanctions and unpleasant police visits, they called their club an Internet café. 

Witnesses say that the police did not allow the moving of stone blocks which were used to barricade the doors. And those who tried to free the kidnapped gamblers were detained without explanation and sent to the police station. On Wednesday night some of the hostages managed to escape captivity. 

Prosecutors say that barricading the doors is illegal, but they doubt that the owners and tenants will make an official complaint, as they likely will want to avoid publicizing their gambling activities.

In 2009 Russian lawmakers banned all casinos and gambling clubs across the country, replacing them with four specially-designated development zones in Siberia, and western, southern and eastern Russia. The industry reacted immediately by shutting down facilities, moving them abroad or going underground.

But it did not solve the problem completely. Instead of the old clubs, new ones were opened under different names, such as the one in Naberezhnye Chelny.