Russia Passes Unlawful Gambling Bill with 3 Tiers of Sentencing
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an unlawful organization of gambling bill into law which sets new penalties for illegal gambling outside Russia’s special zones. The new law punishes offenders with a fine of up to US$7,950 (500k rubles) and a 2-year prison sentence.
The Russian Federation has four special zones which allow casino gambling: Kaliningrad Oblast near Poland and Lithuania, Altai Krai bordering Kazakhstan, Krasnodar Krai (Sochi) in Southern Russia, and Primorski Krai in the Far East near Vladivostok. Rostov Oblast once had an exemption, but was replaced by Krasnodar.
The new law states that unlicensed gambling outside the special zone, as well as the “systematic provision of premises for unlawful gambling”, might result in criminal liability. If a group commits the crime instead of a single lawbreaker, then the punishment could rise up to 4 years for each and the fine could be $15,900 (1 million rubles).
Special Punishments for Organized Crime
If the crime is committed by a group determined to be an organized crime syndicate, then the punishment rises to a 6-year prison sentence and a fine of $23,900 (1.5 million rubles). Two other situations might increase punishment to 6 years and 1.5 million rubles. One is “use of office” to arrange illegal gambling, while the other is “especially large scale” gambling rings.
Organizers are not the only ones subject to penalties. If people provide facilities for illegal gambling on a systematic basis, then they might be subject to punishment. Thus, if a person rents space to an illegal gambling ring, then they might be punished like they were an organizer. The law notes “systematic” use of a building or premises, so the so prosecutors presumably would have to show working knowledge of the illegal gambling.
Russia Duma Passed Bill in July 2018
The Russian State Duma passed the bill unanimously in July 2018 and was a mere formality for Putin’s signing. The Russian president said he hopes the new law will tighten up punishment for illegal gambling and make the Russian Federation safer for residents.
Encouraging Foreign Casino Companies
The bill is seen as part of a program to encourage foreign investment in Russia’s gambling industry. Over the past year, the Russian government has encouraged further investment in the Primorski Krai zone.
Lawrence Ho sold his stake in Tigre de Cristal to a Taiwanese real estate company, but NagaCorp out of Cambodia announced it would invest as much as $12 billion to build a railway from Norhtern China to the Primorye area, which is less than 50 miles from Vladivostok. NagaWorld Vladivostok would become a lucrative site for Chinese gamblers in Northern China and Manchuria.
Shambhala CJSC, which had it casino in Azov City shut down after the Crimean annexation, also plans a $128 million casino-resort in the Primorski Krai region. Three Azov City casinos were allowed to remain open for a time, but were not a part of Putin’s plans for gambling in Russia. Later, Shambhala was one of three casino operators paid $100 million by the Russian Finance Ministry for the trouble of having to shut down its lucrative Azov City casino.
In all, Russian officials hope to see 8 casinos built in the Russian Far East. Situated in the crux between China, South Korea, and Japan, the region is near some of the wealthiest regions on Earth. Some financial and gaming analysts are skeptical of the project’s success, because of the high rate of taxation the Russian government plans to put on the casino gambling in the area. That was one of the regions Lawrence Ho sold his stake in Tigre de Cristal.