Moscow police move on gambling premises

The Moscow Times reports that Moscow police may be getting a little ahead of themselves in starting to shut down gambling premises in the Russian city in preparation for the introduction of new gambling legislation scheduled to come into force on July 1st . The legislation will remove gambling premises from most cities, confining this form of entertainment to four, government delineated geographic areas.

More than 200 officers with the police's economic crimes department have checked around a hundred gambling establishments over the past week and have closed 50, said Filipp Zolotnitsky, a spokesman for the police's economic crimes department.

The reasons for this action are apparently related to allegations of 'suspected' tax evasion, fraud and operating without a proper licence, according to Zolotnitsky.

He declined to identify the companies concerned, citing 'ongoing investigations', but he said the operations were small.

Police confiscated slot machines from 30 of the establishments, RIA-Novosti reported.

Zolotnitsky said the checks for violations would continue -- even past July 1 if needed -- in an indication that the police don't expect all gambling establishments to close as required.

"There will be more checks," he said. "If needed, more checks will be held after July 1."

Last week, Deputy Moscow Mayor Sergei Baidakov told reporters that all of the city's more than 500 gambling establishments would be closed by the deadline.

Under a federal law passed in 2006, gambling will be confined from July 1 to designated zones in Kaliningrad, Siberia's Altai region, the Far East and on the southern Sea of Azov.

Any delay implementing the gambling ban promises to provoke a sharp response from the Kremlin.

President Dmitry Medvedev told Federal Tax Service chief Mikhail Mokretsov last month that he would tolerate no delays in moving all gambling to the regional zones. "There will be no revisions, no pushing back -- despite the lobbying efforts of various businesses," Medvedev said on May 5.

But Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov warned Wednesday that the project "hasn't succeeded yet" because the zones were not ready to welcome casinos. "It is connected to the crisis and other circumstances," Shatalov said, RIA-Novosti reported. "For example, in the Far East and Kaliningrad, local authorities haven't decided where the zones will be set up yet."

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