Something strange happened in Russia this summer. Even though the economy was in a severe downturn and hundreds of thousands were employed in casinos throughout the country, the government (basically Putin) decreed that casinos were to be shut down on July 1, 2009. This article by the NY Times provides a good summary of the situation and its impact.
The gambling industry says the ban will leave more than 400,000 people without work in Russia, at a time when it has been hard hit by the economic downturn: the World Bank predicts the economy will contract by 7.9 percent this year. The government has put the figure at 60,000 people, though industry analysts say that is absurdly low.
After the law passed, federal officials and casino executives seemed certain that it would be watered down, which is apparently why neither the casinos nor the four regions did anything to prepare. “You know, in our country, the decisions are made by only one person,” said Samuil Binder, deputy executive director of the Russian Association for Gaming Business Development. He was referring to Mr. Putin.
When I saw this article it seemed puzzling even by Russian standards - while the Russian government pretends to care about public vice (gambling), in reality it is not much more than a "gangster state", with corruption being the rule, not the exception.
I really didn't think that they were going to go through with this seemingly absurd ruling, but apparently they did. I just started looking to see if they really did close the casinos down, and found this article in an online gambling web site.
Officials in Moscow are stressing out with their concerns that the recent prohibition on casinos and gambling in Russia is being replaced by internet wagering and lottery machines. The total ban on gambling in Russia caused the loss of thousands of jobs in the country.
In the capital 525 casinos and slot machine parlours where once busy and now about a third of those operations are selling instant lottery tickets, Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov said... The number of Internet cafes providing access to online gambling has tripled since July, in Moscow. Russia's gambling industry was generating $3.6 billion and employed about 400,000 people. Baidakov said, "We are seriously concerned about the rise of surrogate technologies," adding, "They are the by product of imperfect legislation."
A strange situation, indeed, that Russia of all places is trying to draw the line on what they determine to be ethical behavior. Maybe the NFL should put their next franchise in Moscow.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz