Over a thousand land casinos have closed in Moscow alone

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that more than 1 000 land-based casinos have been closed down in Moscow in the past 18 months under a law passed last year to move gambling from large cities to far-flung regions (see previous InfoPowa reports).

Speaking in the Russian capital city, a government official told Novosti that the closures were under the authority of a law designed to curb Russians' growing addiction to gambling, approved by parliament and signed by then-president Vladimir Putin, which required casinos in the capital and other cities to cease operations by July 2009.

"In the past year and a half, more than 1 000 stores, art galleries, libraries, children's organisations, and clinics have opened in the city as a result of the closures of casinos," the official claimed.

From July 2009, casinos will only be allowed in designated areas of the Altai Territory, Siberia, the Far Eastern Primoriye region, the Baltic exclave Kaliningrad, and in southern Russia, all of which are low-income regions.

Russian legislators say this will fight gambling addiction in major cities and boost economic development in the poorer regions.

Critics have said city budgets outside the permissible regions will lose billions of dollars in tax revenues, and predicted a rise in illegal gambling.

Investment in projects to build gambling sites in the designated regions has thus far been slow, with the global financial crisis tightening its grip on local governments and businesses.

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