It's a long way to Las Vegas, but Primorye region takes its first step as Tigre de Cristal casino opens.
According to Chinese tradition, the tables opened at exactly at 5.33pm. Picture: Alexander Khitrov
The casino is the first venture in a new special gambling zone in a country which - since 2009 - heavily restricts this industry. The local budget is expected to gain $16 a year in taxes from the new venture, which is scheduled for completion as a massive new entertainment complex in 2022.
An aim is to woo in gamblers and tourists from Asia, offering an alternative to Macau close to Russia's pacific capital of Vladivostok. Tigre de Cristal with 77 gaming tables, 759 slot machines, a spa, two restaurants, and a 121-room luxury hotel represents the first phase.
The investor and the owner of the first casino complex - already the largest in Russia - is G1 Enterteinment company, a subsidiary of Summit Ascent Holdings Limited, which in turn is part of one of the world's largest gambling empires - Melco Crown Enterteinment owned by Lawrence Ho.
Tigre de Cristal with 77 gaming tables, 759 slot machines, a spa, two restaurants, and a 121-room luxury hotel represents the first phase. Pictures: Alexander Khitrov
This week it marked its 'soft' opening, allowing it to run in 'test mode', yet there were queues outside, and even a traffic jam, indicating that the project can entice locals as well as incoming Asian gamblers.
More than 1,000 guests attended. The Grand Opening is scheduled for 12 November. The zone is one of only a handful in Russia permitted after gambling was outlawed in the rest of the country in 2009.
Ultimately, there will 15 hotels, 12 guest villas, a yacht club, a multifunctional trade and exhibition complex, and several cinemas. Scot Craig Ballantyne, 64, a former banker, is leading the project as chief operating officer.
An aim is to woo in gamblers and tourists from Asia, offering an alternative to Macau close to Russia's pacific capital of Vladivostok. Picture: The Siberian Times
'The opening of the first casino will strengthen the investment positions of the region, and will transform Primorye into a world class recreation area attracting visitors from all over the Pacific Far East. In addition, Tigre de Cristal gave the work places to 1,200 employees, 95% of which are the locals. They are all young, professional and full of ambition,' he said. According to Chinese tradition, the tables opened at exactly at 5.33pm.
This week it marked its 'soft' opening, allowing it to run in 'test mode', yet there were queues outside, and even a traffic jam. Pictures: Denis Vladivostoksky, Daria Smorodinova, Vika Pupchenko, Inga Rakova, Alexander Khitrov
With the Russian economy on a roller-coaster due to low oil prices and Western sanctions, the aim is to boost this key region, seven time zones east of Moscow, as the Kremlin pivots towards Asia.
As Ballantyne said recently: 'There are 120 million gambling-mad Chinese, Japanese and Koreans living within two hours' flying time of this place.'
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