Russia has proposed stiffer penalties for anyone who offers gambling options outside the country’s designated gaming zones.
On Thursday, the State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation recommended amending Russia’s Criminal Code to include new penalties for anyone offering unlicensed gambling activities outside Russia’s six official gaming zones.
Under the current system, illegal gambling operators face only administrative fines and forfeiture of property. Under the new rules, offenders would face jail terms of up to two years, as well as fines of RUB 500k (US $8k) or the complete garnishing of an offender’s salary or other income for up to three years.
Anyone caught leasing a building to an illegal gambling operator more than twice could be locked away for up to four years and hit with fines of up to RUB 1m or the loss of other income for up to five years.
Meanwhile, the operator of Russia’s largest existing casino is reportedly considering planting its flag in the Crimea’s new gaming zone. On Tuesday, Life.ru reported that Summit Ascent Holdings, the company controlled by Lawrence Ho (pictured) that operates the Tigre de Cristal casino in Russia’s far east Primorye gaming zone, was now eyeing up the Crimea.
Life.ru added that Macau casino operator SJM Holdings was also sniffing around the Crimea, although it’s unclear whether the rumored interest was a tandem bid with Summit Ascent or two separate projects. The two companies share some DNA, as SJM was founded by Lawrence Ho’s father Stanley Ho, who once held a monopoly on Macau’s casino industry.
Neither SJM nor Summit Ascent has seen fit to comment on the Life.ru rumors. In August, Sergey Aksenov, the new head of the Republic of Crimea, hinted that the gaming zone’s first project would commence construction in 2017, but the Crimean government also won’t confirm the operator’s identity.