The first casino in Sochi’s designated gambling zone, on the Russian Black Sea coast, was scheduled to have its official opening on Thursday (January 5), according to media reports.
“Sochi Casino and Resort is the first entertainment complex of a global scale located on the territory of the year-round mountain resort Gorky Gorod,” operator Domain LLC said in a statement, quoted by media outlet Sputnik International.
The firm added: “Sochi Casino and Resort is a project with a unique concept for Russia in the spirit of the best casinos of Las Vegas,” referring latterly to the major casino gambling destination in the United States.
Earlier media reports mentioned plans for a late-December soft opening of the Sochi property.
According to Sputnik International’s report, the venue includes a casino, food and beverage outlets and a theatre.
In July 2009, the Russian government had closed down all the country’s then-existing casinos and electronic casino game halls. In 2010, the federal authorities identified four specific zones in the country that would be allowed to offer casino gaming: Azov City in the Krasnodar region; Primorye near the Pacific port of Vladivostok; Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea coast; and Altai in Siberia. In 2014, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing the establishment of additional gambling zones: in Sochi – which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics – and in the Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that Russia annexed from the neighbouring country of Ukraine in March 2014.
Last year, the Russian government announced it would be shutting down the Azov City gaming zone by 2019. The reported aim is to concentrate gaming operations in Sochi. According to media reports, casinos are to be allowed in some areas of Sochi’s former Olympic park.
“The infrastructure built in Sochi due to the recent Winter Olympics held there is significant and would support tourism growth,” Jonathan Galaviz, partner at consultancy firm Global Market Advisors LLC, told GGRAsia in 2014.
According to the head of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency, Evgeniy Kudelya, Sochi’s gambling area will help address the issue of fluctuation in seasonal demand facing the region’s tourism industry.
“Tourism traffic increased significantly during the last several years and the demand for holidays in Russia and particularly in Sochi is very high,” Mr Kudelya told Russian news agency TASS last month.
He added: “Such assets [casinos] will make a major contribution to solution of one more problem, the off-season problem. Despite the fact that Sochi is the most popular and one of the best resort [areas in Russia], we have the off-season curve and it should be smoothed out”.
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"We are interested in providing the best possible conditions for all investors, including [casino] operators"
Director of the Department of Tourism of Russia's Primorsky provincial government