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A.P. Chekhov, 1890

Hundreds of new staff trained for next month's landmark casino opening in Vladivostok

By The Siberian Times reporter
20 July 2015

Place your bets as Russia takes on Macau and Las Vegas to woo Pacific gamblers.

Initially, styled as Tigre de Cristal this will comprise five VIP gaming tables, 42 mass market gaming tables, and 759 slot machines in a $172 million first phase. Picture: Prima Media

The first casino resort in the the Primorye Entertainment Zone is due to open next month by Macau magnate Lawrence Ho' gambling investment firm Summit Ascent Holdings. The $500 million complex will boast 121 rooms alongside a luxury casino suite and gaming floor. It is due to open on 28 August after completing construction and undertaking final government inspections. 

Initially, styled as Tigre de Cristal this will comprise five VIP gaming tables, 42 mass market gaming tables, and 759 slot machines in a $172 million first phase.

Some 700 staff have been trained for the opening as croupiers, dealers, floor managers and the like, a number that will increase to over 1,000 when the complex is operating at full capacity. Other major casino and hotel complexes will rapidly come on stream in coming years, with the aim of making this gambling zone near Vladivostok one of the big names in the world.

A project of Hong Kong-based Summit Ascent Holdings, the complex had been due to open in April, but was delayed.

A former Scottish accountant, Craig Ballantyne, has been put in charge, as chief operating officer.

'Remember, there are 120 million gambling-mad Chinese, Japanese and Koreans living within two hours' flying time of this place,' he told the BBC recently, which scoffed at the new development as a 'cathedral of bling'. 

Tigre de Cristal

A former Scottish accountant, Craig Ballantyne, has been put in charge, as chief operating officer. Picture: Prima Media

This is backed by an official company statement, saying: 'The proximity to Northern China of the beautiful European city of Vladivostok makes our value proposition unique. We will have monopoly on gaming in the Russian Far East until at least 2018, and will attract not only Chinese and Russian tourists, but also Korean and Japanese gaming tourists for the foreseeable future.

'That combined with the lowest effective gaming tax regime in the world, a tax exemption on non-gaming revenue until 2020, underutilized infrastructure, strengthening ties between Russia and China and our first mover advantage provides us with an opportunity to deliver a strong return on invested capital to investors in our company.'

The second phase is to be 'much grander in scope' with 100 VIP gaming tables, 70 mass market gaming tables, 500 slot machines, a shopping mall, food and drink outlets, a spa centre, night club, conference facilities and 500 hotel rooms.

Another developer at the site is Cambodia's NagaCorp Ltd, which manages large hotel and recreational complexes, and is due to complete its first phase in 2018 in a $350 million project.

'This project is the first that we will launch in the Far East and in Russia. The Far East and Primorye are a goldmine for the development of business,' said company president Chen Lip Keong.

Regional authorities have concluded agreements concerning investments in the integrated resort on the basis of the Primorye gaming zone to the tune of $1.4 billion with Primorsky Entertainment Resorts City (NagaCorp Ltd.), Melco International Development Limited, Daimond Fortune Holdings Prim, and also for the amount of $765 million with LLC Royal Time and LLC First Gambling Company of the East, reported Interfax.

Tigre de Cristal


Tigre de Cristal

The second phase is to be 'much grander in scope' with 100 VIP gaming tables, 70 mass market gaming tables, 500 slot machines, a shopping mall, food and drink outlets, a spa centre, night club, conference facilities and 500 hotel rooms. Pictures: Prima Media

John Wang, chief executive of First Gambling Company of the East, has said: 'Given the favourable location of Vladivostok, we are sure that [the gaming zone] can become a second Macau'.

The overall 620-hectare gambling zone is ideally placed for tourists jetting in from China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, with 16 hotels from three to five stars, a yacht club, marina for 65 vessels, downhill skiing tracks, golf course, shopping and exhibition complex, an administrative and office centre, and other facilities.

Plans are in place for a total of 16 hotel casino resorts, a yacht club, a marina with berth for 65 boats, a ski trail, and beaches as well as a business and conference centre. There is a trend around the Asian rim for an increase in gaming with Philippines and South Korea well established and Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Australia all seeking part of the action.

The proximity of Russia to China is seen as a big plus for the new Vladivostok project, which also chimes with Moscow's strategic aim of angling its economy eastward due to Western sanctions and the poor economic of the EU bloc. The new Russian gambling hub is around 50km from Vladivostok, but only half this distance from the city's revamped airport.

MarketWatch columnist Craig Stephen asked whether gamblers would come to this new 'frontier market'.

Tigre de Cristal

'By reaching out to this as-yet-largely-untapped neighbouring customer base in Northeast Asia - a market estimated at some 300 million gamers - Russia's plan is to use casinos as a springboard to develop tourism and wider growth on its eastern frontier.' Picture: VL.ru

'Most people need a map to locate the capital city of the Russian Far East, never mind consider it as the next Asia casino opportunity after Macau. Visitors might also do a double take after arriving to find a European city looking out to the Sea of Japan,' he wrote.

Yet while also being at the end of the Trans Siberian Railway, 'it also borders Northeast China and is little more than a two-hour flight from Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo.

'By reaching out to this as-yet-largely-untapped neighbouring customer base in Northeast Asia - a market estimated at some 300 million gamers - Russia's plan is to use casinos as a springboard to develop tourism and wider growth on its eastern frontier.'

He emphasised that analysts see the low gaming tax and staffing costs as 'highly attractive', with Goldman Sachs estimating gross gaming revenues of $1.7 billion by 2020. But he warned Russia that the country needs to appear to be welcoming to incomers.

'To make its pitch, Vladivostok needs to offer its own unique visitor proposition. Today, foreign tourists are still thin on the ground, although the picturesque Russian architecture laid out across a sprawling harbour port makes for a pleasant enough visit.'

The city - closed to foreigners during the Soviet era and still undeveloped by Russian standards - needs high-end hotels 'and perhaps sorting out its traffic congestion'.

Comments (6)

I find it odd that the article states that Vladivostok is "undeveloped by Russian standards." That is simply not true. It may be relatively underdeveloped as compared to Moscow/StP, but there is a *lot* of Russia between those cities and the Russian Far East. Vladivostok is one of the most developed cities in the "rest" of Russia, particularly for a city of its size. It is far more developed than, say, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, or even, arguably, Yekaterinburg.
JP, NYC, USA
16/12/2015 02:37
2
0
Good luck craig ballantyne
Vivi, Greece
26/09/2015 23:17
2
0
Having worked with Craig Ballantyne back in the '70s with Ladbroke Casinos and again here in Kenya during the '80s, I am sure he will show how professional the U.K. trained management are. I wish him every success and he is always welcome on this, the best beach in Africa when even his Scottish blood freezes in that -20° Siberian weather! Good luck Craig!!
Mike Bowen, Diani Beach, Kenya
29/07/2015 03:11
4
2
I suppose we'll never see any of the gamers again that go there; & if you do? They won't be very "Rich".

Except for their memories of seeing such beautiful girls enticing them through the door with little souvenirs of their stay.
Jaker, Dundalk
26/07/2015 00:56
1
1
It would make for a great movie....
Doc, US
25/07/2015 09:58
1
0
It is important for the staff to be European because that makes Vladivostok unique in the North Pacífic and "exotic" for Asians.
Enrique, Spain
21/07/2015 19:29
6
1
1

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