Russia has passed a bill that doubles tax rates for both land-based casinos and bookmakers, with even more hikes in the pipeline, raising concern the ever shifting sands of regulation are changing the outlook for the industry and threatening foreign investment. Steve Gallaway, managing partner at Global Market Advisors, says the “changes to the tax regime are devastating for the IEZ (Integrated Entertainment Zone) in Primorye,” referring to the most developed of Russia’s gaming zones.
The tenth Russian Gaming Week conference was held in Moscow earlier this month, but a promised focus on the country’s land-based industry failed to materialize. Organizers had scheduled discussions on the often confusing and ever-shifting situation in Russia’s gambling zones on the second day of the conference, but the program was replaced by a set of marketing presentations, with no explanation given. Despite the high-profile launch of Summit Ascent’s Tigre de Cristal in Primorye last year, experts say the reality is that the zones in Russia are struggling. Samoil Binder, Deputy Head of the Russian Association of Gambling Business, said the situation is “deplorable.”
The first casino in Russia’s Far East, which has been touted as a potential Macau of the north, has officially opened after lengthy delays.The Tigre de Cristal held its soft launch on Oct. 8th in the Primorye gaming zone near the city of Vladivostok. The debut of the casino has been postponed multiple times since 2011, but the pace of development picked up when Asian investors became involved in the project in 2013. The resort is expected to appeal mainly to travellers from northern China and Korea, although unlike in many other Asian countries locals will also be able to participate. About 300 million people live within a three-hour flight of Vladivostok.