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Gambling Surges in Russia, Despite Near Total Ban - 5th October 2009


MOSCOW — Moscow authorities expressed concern Monday about the rise of "surrogate" gambling technologies such as lottery machines and online gambling three months after an almost total ban on gambling in Russia.

"We are seriously concerned about the rise of surrogate technologies," Moscow deputy mayor Sergei Baidakov said at a news conference. "They are the byproduct of imperfect legislation."

He said about a third of Moscow's 525 casinos and slot machine halls have opened "lottery parlors" to sell instant lottery tickets, while the number of Internet cafes providing access to online gambling resources has risen threefold since July.

Since July 1, gambling has been confined to four far-flung special zones.

Government pressure to crack down on gambling began in 2006, when then-President Vladimir Putin pledged to root out the industry whose effect on Russians he compared to "alcoholization" of the country.

Baidakov said the budget had suffered little from the disappearance of gambling, with tax revenues down 0.5 percent.

"It's nil compared to the benefits to the health of the nation," he said.

He also downplayed the impact of the industry shutdown on unemployment, saying that about 1,500 former casino employers in Moscow have registered as unemployed and secured government handouts.

Casinos multiplied in Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse, and slot machines quickly spread beyond gaming halls to shops and malls. In 2008, the industry as a whole provided 400,000 jobs and had a turnover of $3.6 billion.

Moscow authorities are continuing to search out illicit casinos and slot machine halls.

Police seized 33 slot machines late Sunday, and have shut down 35 underground casinos since the legislation passed, deputy Moscow police head Viktor Vasilyev said.

Moscow city lawmaker Inna Svyatenko said city and federal authorities would close the legal loopholes that allow online gambling and the unrestricted sale of lottery tickets.

As of July, casinos and slot machines have been restricted to the Western exclave of Kaliningrad, the Primorsky region on the Pacific coast, the Altai region in Siberia and near the southern cities of Krasnodar and Rostov. No casinos have opened there yet: Potential investors say the zones are too remote, their infrastructure too underdeveloped.

In Moscow the glittering casinos and slot machine halls that once exemplified Russia's post-Soviet embrace of Western habits have made way for restaurants, shops and fitness clubs.

A spacious former slot machine hall near the Kievsky railway station in central Moscow has been split into a fast food outlet, a bureau de change and a cell phone store. Vendors from nearby shops hailed the removal of the one-armed bandits — and obsessive and often drunk gamblers who would typically hover nearby.

"It's a lot quieter here now, after all those weird gamblers disappeared," said Alexandra Tarpischeva, a saleswoman at a deli next door.


Russia (Rossiya), also the Russian Federation, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya; listen is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia (Europe and Asia). With an area of 17,075,400 km², Russia is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the total area of the next-largest country, Canada, and has unparalleled mineral and energy resources combined with the world's ninth-largest population. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It is also close to the United States (the state of Alaska), Sweden, and Japan across relatively small stretches of water (the Bering Strait, the Baltic Sea, and La Pérouse Strait, respectively).

Formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), a republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia became the Russian Federation following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. After the Soviet era, more than half of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union (then one of the world's two Cold War superpowers, the other one being the United States) passed on to the Russian Federation.

Russia is considered to be an energy superpower. Russia is internationally recognized as continuing the legal personality of the Soviet Union and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also one of the five recognised nuclear weapons states and possesses the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the leading nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a member of the G8 as well as other international organizations.


The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the super-continent of Eurasia. Because of its size, Russia displays both monotony and diversity. As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances. From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed and broad-leaf forests, grassland (steppe), and semi-desert (fringing the Caspian Sea) as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate. Siberia supports a similar sequence but is taiga


The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic (i.e. shortest line between two points on the Earth's surface). These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60 km long (40-mi long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdansk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaido Island, Japan. The points which are furthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova). The Russian Federation spans eleven time zones.

Russia has the world's largest forest reserves and is known as "the lungs of Europe," second only to the Amazon Rainforest in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. It provides a huge amount of oxygen for not just Europe, but the world. With access to three of the world's oceans—the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific—Russian fishing fleets are a major contributor to the world's fish supply. The Caspian is the source of what is considered the finest caviar in the world.

Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,642 m / 18,511 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The Ural Mountains form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia, rich in mineral resources. Russia possesses 8.9% of the world's arable land.

Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometers (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas. The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia.

Major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just three kilometers (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about twenty kilometers (12 mi) from Hokkaido.

Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. The most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest and most capacious freshwater lake. Lake Baikal alone contains over one fifth of the world's fresh surface water.

Many rivers flow across Russia; see Rivers of Russia. Of its 100,000 rivers, Russia contains some of the world's longest. The Volga is the most famous—not only because it is the longest river in Europe but also because of its major role in Russian history. Major lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega; see List of lakes in Russia. Russia has a wide natural resource base including major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, timber and mineral resources unmatched by any other country.


Owing to its size, Russia's climate also displays both monotony and diversity. The climate of the Russian Federation formed under the influence of several determining factors. One of the most important is the enormous size and remoteness of many areas from the sea, resulting in the dominance of the continental climate, which is prevalent in European and Asian Russia except for the tundra and the extreme southeast. Mountains in the south obstructing the flow of warm air masses from the Indian Ocean and the plain of the west and north makes the country open to Arctic and Atlantic influences.

Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasons—winter and summer; Spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low temperatures and extremely high. The coldest month is January (on the shores of the sea—February), the warmest usually is July. Great ranges of temperature are typical. In winter temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east. Summers can be quite hot and humid, even in Siberia. A small part of Black Sea coast around Sochi is considered in Russia to have subtropical climate. The continental interiors are the driest areas. (Credit: Wikipedia).


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