Russia isn’t backtracking on its goal to create its own version of Las Vegas in the Far East Primorye Gambling Zone, located roughly 30 miles north of Vladivostok.
In 2009, Russian President Vladimir Putin made gambling illegal everywhere except in four places: Altai, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, and Primorsky Krai. The Primorye Gambling Zone was designated as a future casino hub, with the country’s goal to create a gaming, entertainment, and business destination.
A decade later, however, and only one casino resort has opened – Tigre de Cristal in 2005. But officials aren’t giving up on the region, which has been slow to attract investments from major casino operators.
Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho – who controls Melco Resorts, a casino giant with integrated resorts in Macau, Philippines, and Cyprus – developed Tigre. He divested his entire stake in the Russian casino in 2017 after the property struggled in its opening two years.
The Primorye Gambling Zone won’t remain a one-casino town much longer, claim area officials. Primorsky Krai Acting Vice Governor Konstantin Shestakov, who is in charge of economic business development and tourism for the federal subject area, says more resorts are on the way.
During a recent trip to Tigre, Shestakov said he expects there will be 11 casinos in the Primorye Gambling Zone in operation by 2023. And there could be many more.
We have entered the final stage of constructing two new entertainment complexes with casinos in the gambling zone. An investor from Cambodia is completing an 11-story hotel with a casino and a concert hall, while a Russian investor … will launch its casino tentatively in March 2020,” he said.
Shestakov’s comments were first reported by Asia Gaming Brief. He added that there will be “at least” 11 casinos to open in the four years.
Build It, Will They Come?
Russian officials say there is currently RUB78.5 billion ($1.2 billion) in investments under contract in Primorye. Ongoing infrastructure has led to renewed interest in the area. A new highway is under construction, adequate water and sewer systems are being installed, and proper electric networks laid.
One investor is Cambodia’s NagaCorp – a hotel, leisure, and gaming company that owns and operates the NagaWorld integrated resort in its native country. NagaCorp is building a $350 million casino named Primorsky Entertainment Resort City that is scheduled to open next year.
In May of 2018, NagaCorp announced it was teaming with Chinese construction conglomerate Dongfang Group to build a 235-mile high-speed railway linking Primorye to Mudanjiang. Russia’s version of Las Vegas will depend heavily on visitors from neighboring China, where gambling is illegal everywhere except Macau and the government-run lottery.
One other casino is currently under construction in Primorye, and it comes from a Russian company. Diamond Fortune is a $270 million casino project that is expected to open in late 2020.