Russia Closes Azov City Casinos Effective January 1, 2019
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order this week to close down the Azov City gambling zone in the Krasnodar Territory. Medvedev’s order told the three casino operators there they must be closed by December 31, 2018.
Azov City was the first gambling zone created in Russia, back in 2009. The Russian Federation has created 5 gambling zones in all: in Krasnodar on the Black Sea Coast, Primorye Krai in the Fa East, Kaliningrad between Lithuania and Poland, Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi, and Altai on the Siberian border with Kazakhstan.
The three Azov City casinos – Shambala Casino, Oracul Casino, and Nirvana Casino – had become successful operations in their 9 years of operation. The three casinos were discussed in continental European and UK trade magazines and websites. They appeared vibrant and lucrative.
Sochi Casinos a Possibility
Azov City was a victim of Vladimir Putin’s obsession with his favorite holiday spot, Sochi. In the leadup to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Russian Federation spent a reported $50 billion to build world class hotel and stadium facilities in Sochi. Some of that cash came from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) coffers, but the Russian Federation also paid huge amounts.
Now that the Olympics are long gone, President Putin wants to direct vacation traffic to Sochi. The hotel operators need the boost and the Azov City casinos are a close rival to the Sochi destination. The three operators have been invited to relocate to Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi).
Azov City Operators
According to one report in 2016, the three operators were offered $100 million apiece by the Russian Finance Ministry to compensate them for the cost of relocation. Whether $100 million compensates for the cost of building a brand new casino and hotel in the 21st Century gaming industry is another matter, but the cost of building might be significantly lower in Russia than in China or the United States.
In signing the order, Dmitry Medvedev said Russia’s gambling zone laws states that each region of the Russian Federation allows for only one gambling zone apiece. Krasnodar/Azov and Krasnaya Polyana/Sochi would be two gambling zones in one region, so one had to go under Russian law.
Shambala Casino Azov City
Shambala Casino is the largest casino resort in Azov City. According to many resources, Shambala Casino has 80,000 square feet of gambling space, 750 slot machines, and 40 table games. Shambala Casino also has a poker room with 2 poker tables and a single restaurant on site.
According to other respected sources, Shambala Casino has 16,000 square foot of gaming space, 140 gaming machines, and 12 table games. (The other sources might be older, while the smaller numbers might reflect a casino prepared to move.) The small poker room has Texas Hold’em, 5-Card Stud, and Six Card Poker. The gaming tables have American Roulette, blackjack, and 3-Card Poker. Casino Shambala Hotel has 50 rooms.
Nirvana Casino Azov City
Nirvana Casino has 16,000 square feet of gaming space, 2647 gaming machines, and 13 table games. Nirvana Casino was opened in 2013 by JSC, the owners of Shambala Casino. Nirvana Casino has free shuttle bus servide to and from the Hotel Rostov, a nice hotel in Rostov-on-Don.
Free bus service also goes to the Red Square entertainment and shopping complex in Krasnodar. Those taking the Krasnodar bus service on Monday through Thursday receive a video slots coupon worth 500 rubles.
Casino Oracul in Azov City
Casino Oracul has 41,398 square foot gaming space, 558 gaming machines, and 26 gaming tables. The table games allotment includes blackjack, American Roulette, and 3-Card Poker. The poker room has 16 poker tables, which includes Texas Hold’em, Six-Card Poker, and Russian Poker. Casino Oracul has a single restaurant and a hotel with 10 standard rooms (yes, 10 rooms).
When the Sochi gaming zone was created, a spokesman for Royal Time Group, the owner of Casino Oracul, said he did not expect Putin and Medvedev to close the Azov City casinos. Royal Time Group did not see the Sochi decision “as a direct indication to the elimination of the existing Azov-City gambling zone.”
In retrospect, those comments might have been made diplomatically, so Royal Time Group could not be seen as speaking out of turn. Or perhaps the operator was engaged in wishful thinking.
Russian Casinos 2018
That means 5 legal and licensed casinos will be operating in the Russian Federation come January 1, 2019. Russian officials plan to have 8 land-based casinos in the Russian Far East gaming zone near Vladivostok in the coming years. NagaCorp plans a Nagaworld Vladivostok and a $12 billion railway link between Vladivostok and Northern China. Shambala plans a casino in the Far East, as well.
Casino Name – City Name – Licensed Gaming Zone
- Tigre de Cristal – Artyom (near Vladivostok) – Primorye Krai Gaming Zone
- Altai Palace Casino – Gorno-Altaysk – Altai Gaming Zone
- Sobranie Casino – Kaliningrad – Kaliningrad Gaming Zone
- Sochi Casino & Resort – Sochi – Krashnaya Polyana Gaming Zone
- Rostov Hippodrome – Rostov on Don – Krasnaya Polyana Gaming Zone
Again, the three Azov City casinos might build operations in Sochi in the coming years. That will take years to construct and presumably would require a brand new licensing process, which itself would be complicated. Whatever happens, it is a major reorganization of Russia’s casinos industry for the time being.