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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Falling All Over' Chuck's Casino

It begins with a name -- Beverly Hills Casino. Then there's the location -- in the massive Stalin skyscraper at Barrikadnaya not far from the U.S. Embassy and the White House. And, finally, there are the characters -- action movie hero Chuck Norris, three male stars from "Santa Barbara" and flashy, beautiful Mayor Jan Jones of America's gambling capital.


Put it all together and it's an unusual marriage between Moscow and Las Vegas, the American desert city whose name is synonymous with flashy entertainment generally and gambling specifically.


"Moscow will be the gaming and party mecca of the East," predicted Nikolai Vissokovsky II, Norris's partner and the CEO of Chuck Norris Casino International Ltd., in a Friday interview at the casino slated to open Sunday.


Vissokovsky, who organized this venture, Norris' first outside the United States, said he planned to create a kind of Las Vegas-Moscow axis. The first step, he said, will be the rotation every three weeks of genuine Las Vegas showgirls for performances on the tiny stage of the Beverly Hills Casino. Vissokovsky said he hopes eventually to bring in foreign gamblers to spend their money in Norris' Moscow casino.


"We will be flying in foreign clients every month," Vissokovsky said, adding that he hopes, in turn, to send Russian gamblers to Las Vegas.


For her part, the mayor of Las Vegas said she was in town partly to help Norris open the Beverly Hills, partly just to see Moscow and partly to talk with Mayor Yury Luzhkov about making Las Vegas a sister city. Unfortunately, the scheduled Friday afternoon meeting didn't take place because Luzhkov was unavailable, Jones said Friday night. Instead, she met with lower-level officials, who were distracted by Norris.


"I've never seen anything like it," said Jones. "They were falling all over Chuck Norris."


As for Norris, 56, this visit was his third to Russia, where he is especially popular among young moviegoers keen on films like "Hero and the Terror," "Forced Vengeance" and "Good Guys Wear Black." At the Friday afternoon press conference in the Palace Hotel, where Norris' entourage of 20 is ensconced, the 100 or so journalists, mostly photographers, hurled softball questions.


Perhaps the only difficult question was how Norris reconciles his self-proclaimed role as model for youth with operating casinos.


"That is not the image I have in America," said Norris, who has an interest in two Las Vegas casinos. "In the next year or two I plan to work with youth gangs in Russia through the martial arts."


Norris seemed surprised to hear that an estimated 40 casinos have been closed down in Moscow in recent months, leaving behind some 30 gambling operations. With a laugh, Norris said, "I hope mine won't be one of them."


Most questions had nothing to do with the casino's Sunday opening, but instead focused on subjects like Norris' diet (vegetables and fish) and whether he owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle (yes) and why he stopped racing cars (danger).


On Saturday and Sunday, Norris, flanked by "Santa Barbara's" Todd McKee, Lane Davies and Jed Allen, plan on seeing Moscow's sights and taking part in private parties at the Beverly Hills Casino, which opens to the public on Sunday.


While no one would say how much was spent on turning the old Zhar Ptitsa Casino into the Beverly Hills, on Thursday a Russian supervisor said the lighting and sound system alone cost $250,000. The 2,700-square-meter entertainment complex will have 10 gambling tables, a special VIP room for high rollers with $10,000 to spare, a two-floor disco and a ritzy California-style restaurant, complete with fake Florida palm trees.