CASINO

Russian casino zone’s first investors; India bars Goans, plans Punjab casinos

TAGs: Goa, India, primorsky territory, punjab, royal western india turf club, Russia, vladivostok

russia-casino-zone-india-goa-punjabSeven firms have indicated they will invest in building gaming facilities in Russia’s far eastern Primorsky Territory, where authorities hope to create a casino zone in the city of Vladivostok to rival others in the region, such as Macau and Singapore. RIA Novosti detailed the plans of two of the seven firms, including the First Eastern Gambling Company, a Russian outfit that is apparently starting small with a $30m ‘entertainment and casino complex.’ (Not exactly on par with the billion-plus facilities in some of the Asia-Pacific region’s other gaming hotspots, but long journeys begin with a single step, as they say.) An unidentified Cypriot firm is reportedly aiming a little higher, planning to invest $200m on a five-star hotel-casino. Authorities are hoping to have 12 casinos operating in the Primorsky casino zone by 2016. Unlike Singapore and other such zones, Russian nationals will not be restricted from gambling in Primorsky.

In India, Goa’s Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has made good on threats made this spring to bar local residents from patronizing the region’s six riverboat casinos and another dozen or so land-based gaming joints. Goa and Sikkim are currently the only two Indian states which permit casino gambling, but under the Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Bill 2012, which was approved by the cabinet last week and will be introduced into the legislative assembly during the current session, Goans will be barred completely from accessing the local facilities. Entry into the casinos will require special passes available only via local hotels, which will require a room reservation and be limited to those 21 years of age or older. In a somewhat amusing twist, the bill specifically defines a ‘tourist’ as “a person or a group of persons including pilgrims who are on a visit to a tourist area.” Perhaps next time your significant other gives you grief about you and your buddies planning a road trip to Vegas, try telling her you’re on a ‘pilgrimage.’ You don’t want God to smite me for not gambling, do ya, honey?

But as God (or whatever) closes a door, he opens a window… onto Punjab! Far north of Goa, just across the border from Lahore, Pakistan, might seem an odd place for a casino, but that’s exactly what Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal has in mind. Following a fact-finding trip to Goa, the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) has been tasked with planning the installation of casinos in the village of Mattewara near the city of Ludhiana. PIDB managing director Anurag Aggarwal told the Times of India the casinos – built either inside hotels or as standalone facilities and each featuring 30-50 slot machines as well as table games – are intended “to increase the tourist footfall in the state.” A horseracing track, golf course and amusement park are already planned for the Mattewara region. However, the proposal has met with vocal opposition from the region’s Sikh community, so don’t book your trip just yet.

Speaking of holding one’s horses, another big tease came just prior to the July 26 commencement of the 2012 racing season at the track in Pune (southeast of Mumbai). A report last week in Mid-Day claimed that the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), which manages the course, was set to permit telephone betting for the first time. Mid-Day claimed that the proposal has been “routed though all relevant government departments, and is just waiting for a final nod from the state home ministry.” But the necessary nodder must have nodded off, because when the RWITC announced the opening of the festivities, the telephone betting option was apparently left off the agenda.

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