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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gambling Ends in Kazakh Cities

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Casinos and slot machine arcades have been all but eradicated in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, city officials said Tuesday.

Kazakhstan introduced a law in January that ended gambling in big cities on March 31. Casinos may now operate only in two small resort towns -- Kapshagai, near Almaty, and Shchuchinsk, close to the capital, Astana.

"Out of 100 places that we checked, 99 were closed," Zhanat Tastemirova, deputy head of Almaty's tax committee, told reporters. "We continue inspections on a daily basis."

Russia has proposed similar restrictions on gambling that have yet to come into force.

Casinos mushroomed across Almaty and other cities during the 1990s and many were used for money laundering, critics maintain.

"Day after day we were receiving letters from citizens who complained about casinos appearing on every corner and asked us to stop that," said Yerlan Buzurbayev, a senior official at the Almaty mayor's office.

The city offered casino owners help in moving into other lines of work, but none accepted. "Maybe they are moving to Kapshagai," Buzurbayev said.

Even after the law was published in January, at least five businessmen applied for gambling licenses, he said, apparently confident of recouping their investment in only two months.