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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Casino Bill Clears 3rd Vote

A bill that would close most casinos and slot-machine halls in the country -- including Moscow and St. Petersburg -- cleared a third and final reading Wednesday in the State Duma.

To become law, the bill still needs the approval of the Federation Council and of President Vladimir Putin, who submitted the draft in October.

The bill received the support of 428 out of 450 deputies, indicating that the law is certain to be adopted.

The bill calls for the creation of four zones for legal gambling -- the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the Primorsky region on the Pacific coast, the Siberian region of Altai and the southern Krasnodar-Rostov area.

Casinos and slot-machine operations elsewhere in the country would be banned as of July 1, 2009.

Gambling experts have said that Primorsky, which is situated close to China, can sustain a gaming industry; indeed, they note that many Chinese already visit the region to gamble. But they have voiced doubts that the other areas will be able to draw enough visitors to make gambling viable there, saying there is a dearth of hotels and other tourist facilities and that tourists would prefer to go to Kiev or Riga, Latvia.

While thousands of casinos look doomed for now, industry analysts have noted that the 2007 parliamentary elections and the 2008 presidential election could affect the substance of the anti-gambling bill.

Casinos sprouted across the country after the Soviet collapse. Officials have complained that the gambling industry is dominated by criminal gangs and that casinos have avoided paying millions in tax revenues.

(AP, MT)