When gambling in Russia was banished to four far-flung regions of the massive country in 2009, the idea that Vladivostok, the administrative centre of the Primorsky Krai region (and still home to Russia’s Pacific fleet), could become a successful gaming resort seemed unlikely. But, six years later, and with a change in the geo-political situation, it is not looking quite so fanciful.
Russia’s falling out with Europe over its invasion of the Ukraine and the EU-imposed sanctions has caused the Russian government to do a “pivot to Asia” and is now trying to create an “Asian hub” with Vladivostok as its focal point.
One of major construction projects taking place some 50km from the city is Summit Ascent Holdings’ Tigre de Cristal integrated resort. The first phase is due to open on 28 August 2015 and will include 25 VIP gaming tables, 42 mass market tables, 759 slots and a 121-room hotel.
The company is the leaseholder on three plots in the Primorsky Krai Integrated Entertainment Zone (IEZ), a zone which permits a further three casino operators alongside Summit Ascent, as well as various other entertainment and leisure facilities.
If the new entertainment zone is able to attract large numbers of international visitors to the region it would represent the completion of a cultural shift for Vladivostok, which remained officially closed to foreign visitors until as recently as 1992.
The IEZ is 20km from the airport and some 300 million people live within a three-hour flight of Vladivostok, including Seoul (2hr20min), Tokyo (2hr40min) and Beijing (2hr50min). Many of these people will also currently have little access to legal casinos in their own country.