State Duma passes gaming zone bill on first reading

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The lower house of Russia's parliament has adopted on a first reading a bill setting up four gambling zones, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Wednesday.
MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of Russia's parliament has adopted on a first reading a bill setting up four gambling zones, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin recently introduced a draft law proposing a new set of regulations for the gaming industry.

The bill was passed by a 440-0 vote, against a required minimum of 226, with one abstention.

The president proposed the new law after the Interior Ministry launched an apparent sting operation to check the financial, tax and sanitary-epidemiological documents of a variety of gambling establishments in the capital allegedly linked to the Georgian mafia.

The wave of closures of Georgian-owned casinos and restaurants in Moscow followed on the heels of a spying scandal between Russia and Georgia that saw the arrest of several Russian officers on espionage charges.

If the law, which envisions the establishment of two types of gambling zones where gambling will be allowed, is passed, the new rules will come into effect January 1, 2009.

The first type comprises gambling zones in residential areas. These can be established on territory allocated for urban and rural development. The federal government will issue permits to gambling establishments in these areas in coordination with local authorities.

Permits will be issued for five years and will allow each organizer to set up one gambling facility per permit.

The second type comprises gambling zones established on parcels of land belonging to federal or municipal authorities not allocated for urban or rural development. These parcels will be leased to the owners of gambling business by the Russian government.

The draft also outlines requirements for the owners of gambling establishments. Owners must be Russian legal entities that have not been created by the Russian government or local authorities, and whose net assets are not less than 600 million rubles (about $22.4 million).

All gaming businesses that do not meet the requirements proposed in the bill will be shut down after July 1, 2007. Those gambling establishments that meet the requirements will be allowed to operate without special permits until January 1, 2009, when the new law comes into effect.

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