Over 1,000 casinos shut in Moscow under new law - Friday 28th of November 2008

More than 1,000 casinos have been closed down in Moscow in the past 18 months under a law passed last year to move gambling from large cities to far-flung regions, a Moscow government official said on Friday.

Under the law designed to curb Russians growing addiction to gambling, approved by parliament and signed by then-president Vladimir Putin, casinos in the capital and other cities are to disappear completely by next July.

"In the past year and a half, more than 1,000 stores, art galleries, libraries, childrens organizations, and clinics have opened in the city as a result of the closures of casinos," the official told RIA Novosti.

Casinos will only be allowed in designated areas of the Altai Territory, Siberia, the Far Eastern Primoriye region, the Baltic exclave Kaliningrad, and in southern Russia, all of which are low-income regions.

Authors said this will fight gambling addiction in major cities and boost economic development in the poorer regions.

Critics have said city budgets will lose billions of dollars in tax revenues, and predicted a rise in illegal gambling.

Investment in projects to build gambling sites in the designated regions has been slow, with the financial crisis tightening its grip on local governments and businesses.

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