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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Not Bluffing on Poker Clubs

MTA deputy mayor says the city is not going to allow casinos to reopen under the guise of competitive poker clubs.
Moscow will not permit "surrogate gaming facilities" after the mandated closing of all casinos on July 1, Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov said Wednesday, Itar-Tass reported.

"Close attention must be paid to city facilities that have access to the Internet, such as schools and libraries, to completely prevent access to virtual casinos," Baidakov said.

Under a rule passed in late 2006, the industry must relocate to four designated gambling zones spread across Russia. Industry advocates say the zones are poorly developed and that closing casinos will leave thousands jobless.

On Tuesday, President Dmitry Medvedev sternly told Federal Tax Service chief Mikhail Mokretsov to make sure that casinos comply with the deadline and reminded him of the service's responsibility for regulating the industry.

Baidakov said City Hall would not tolerate gambling under the guise of competitive poker. "Anyone who wants to open a competitive poker club must go through the necessary review process," Baidakov said.

Since 2007, the Federal Sports Agency has classified the card game as a sport, allowing poker establishments to circumvent gambling laws.

"If we see an organizer trying to deceive us, we'll turn down his certification ... which will allow us to close down such establishments," he said.

By April 30, the city employment department had received notification of 10,369 planned layoffs in the industry -- 4,000 of which are Muscovites, Baidakov said. "The gaming lobby predictions of tens of thousands of jobless are no more than a bluff.

"By law, company leaders must notify employment services at least two months before the employee is laid off -- which means before May 1," he said. "The end of gambling is July 1 -- this is a real and incontrovertible fact."