The Sochi Casino and Resort opened in Russia on Thursday, January 5. It is first land-based casino to open in Russia’s new dedicated gambling zone, which is a traditional resort area on the Black Sea coast.
Located in Gorky Gorod, the Sochi Casino and Resort is described by its owner, Domain LLC, as a “entertainment complex of a global scale.”
With the reported $50 billion invested in the Sochi area for the 2012 Winter Olympics, the infrastructure and facilities nearby should be idyllic for visitors.
“In the Spirit…of Las Vegas”
The plan is ambitious. The press release that announced the Sochi Casino’s opening said it was a “unique concept for Russia in the spirit of the best casinos of Las Vegas.”
Sochi is known to be Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s favorite vacation area. He and his associates have poured massive amounts of cash into the area, though most international analysts believe the $50 billion figure was overstated.
The Sochi complex appears to be a modern integrated resort-casino, nevertheless. The casino includes hotels, two restaurants, convention rooms, and retail stores. It also has a cabaret theatre and other amenities, including bars and nightclubs. Press for the casino said Sochi Casino “represents the newest phase in Russia’s zonal casino experiment”.
On a Sputnik News release, the casino’s management said they expect 40,000 visitors to the new casino every month. While that is a smaller influx of customers than most United States or China-based casinos, it is expected that Russia’s casino traffic is expected to appeal to high rollers more than the mass market casinos in the US or Macau.
Russia’s Gambling Zones
Russia has five dedicated gambling zones, which are located in the far-flung corners of the Russian Federation’s vast expanse. The Primorskyi zone in the Far East has gained the most international media attention. Lawrence Ho’s Tigre de Cristal, located near Vladivostok, was built two years ago to appeal to VIP high rollers from Northern China, South Korea, and Japan.
The other three dedicated gambling zones are located in Azov City in the Krasnodar sector, the little-known Altai in Siberia, and Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave carved from the now-defunct East Prussia, which is located between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea coast.
Closure of Moscow Casinos
At one time, Moscow was a center for casino gambling. Vladimir Putin decided the Moscovite casinos were a corrupting influence, so he closed them down in 2009. Now, casino gambling is banned throughout Russia, except for the five zones which Russia’s wealthy elite can visit.
Vladimir Putin is said to have a disdain for gambling. In fact, when the Sochi resort area was built, he said it would remain a family-friendly area. He reversed that position, looking ahead to the 2018 Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, because of the vast wealth which could be generated from the influx of foreign gamblers at that time.
Major Build-Up for 2018
To prepare for the 2018 international events, the Russian Federation said it would liquidate the gambling zone in Azov City, along with its three casinos. A Russian minister said the operators of those three casinos would be compensated for their troubles.
Given its proximity, Crimean casinos might be a competitor for the Sochi gambling industry. Thus, they needed to go. The latest news is the Azov City casinos will be phased out by 2019.