Moscow night life adds toss of the dice
July 25, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Mike Hanna
MOSCOW (CNN) -- An after-hours outing in Moscow may surprise
some visitors. The once drab city now boasts a night life
reminiscent of some U.S. entertainment districts -- most
notably Las Vegas and New York's Times Square.
After the sun sets, the Russian capital is a lively place
with bars, restaurants and teeming crowds. But most of all,
there are casinos.
"When I first came here, there were three small casinos. Now
there are 72. This has happened in the last four years," said
Victor Burton, director of operations for Casino Royale.
"There's no banking like we know in the West. You don't
see a Russian walk around with a checkbook so he can deposit
his money and withdraw it. He carries it and therefore he
will spend it," Burton said. "There's a tremendous cash flow
in this city."
But some authorities do not approve, arguing that gaming is
nothing more than an invitation to crime.
"We're going to clean up certain sleazy places like casinos
and gambling clubs. We'll determine their optimal number and
tighten control over them," said Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
"In my opinion, this number should not exceed five. That'll
be plenty for Moscow."
Sleazy is hardly a word that applies to upper-market venues
like Moscow's Club Royale. Casino tables are filled not with
thieves or gang bosses, but with people who appear to be
solid, prosperous citizens with money to spend. And, they
didn't appear to share the mayor's or the media's ideas about
"If you ever watch a TV show about a casino, it's always
the Mafia, it's always the crooks. No one ever gets married
in a casino. No one falls in love in a casino," Burton said.
In Moscow, however, you can get arrested in a casino. The
mayor, true to his word, is cracking down. Recently, the
crackdown included a raid on a gaming house that the police
insist was laundering money and evading taxes.
In the end, the crackdown on casinos is not really about
crime, it's about control -- in particular of the
billions of rubles that aren't being paid in taxes.
It's part of a wide campaign by the authorities that the
upper-market casinos are not opposed to.
"They've made a major change to the whole country and they
are coming to terms with what they have to do to implement
the controls, and taxation is one of the major ones," Burton
Regardless of the rumblings of the politicians, gambling is
in Moscow to stay.
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