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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ritzio Owners Plan Virgin Megastores

Owners of Ritzio Entertainment Group, the country's largest gambling operator, are in talks to buy franchise rights to Virgin Megastores in Russia, Kommersant reported.

Ritzio's shareholders Boris Belotserkovsky, Oleg Chamin and Vladimir Sherman are in talks with Richard Branson's Virgin Group about opening Virgin stores, which sell audio and video products, books and computer games, the newspaper said, citing Belotserkovsky, who did not give other details.

A source close to Ritzio added that negotiations were at an active stage but that no agreement had yet been signed, Kommersant reported. Ritzio majority shareholder Oleg Boiko is not involved in talks, the source said.

Gambling operators are increasingly seeking new business models after President Vladimir Putin approved a law at the end of December restricting gambling to four specially designated zones around the country from July 2009.

Ritzio started talks in July with Moscow-based food retailer Dixy Group in a bid to turn its gambling clubs in St. Petersburg into supermarkets. The companies are planning to set up joint venture to open 50 outlets under the V-Mart brand in Ritzio's former gambling halls in St. Petersburg.

In May, Ritzio began creating a retail chain and had already opened five supermarkets in the Moscow region.

Kommersant last week also reported that Ritzio was exploring the possibility of converting around 20 of its gambling clubs into flower shops.

Ritzio owns around 900 gambling clubs, 12 casinos and three entertainment centers.

Bloomberg, MT