MOSCOW, June 29 (RIA Novosti) - With a looming July 1 deadline to shut their doors and take down all signs, many Moscow casinos have opted to close early rather than gamble on working right down to the wire.
Under a 2007 law designed to curb gambling in major cities and boost economic growth in poorer regions, casinos and other gaming establishments are to be relocated from Moscow and other cities to four remote Russian regions - in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, southern Siberia's Altai territory, Primorye on the Pacific coast, and in southern Russia on the border of the Krasnodar territory and the Rostov region - by July 1 this year.
The Crystal, Golden Palace and Imperia casinos have been closed since 08:00 Moscow time (04:00 GMT) on Monday, while Metelitsa and Arbat planned to shut by midnight.
"We are law-abiding citizens and have decided to close ahead [of the deadline]," a Golden Palace spokeswoman said.
Shangri La, Jazz Town, New York, and Udarnik said they would close at 19:00 on Tuesday.
Casino owners are reluctant to move business to special areas in regions, citing poor infrastructure in the regions as the main barrier to Russia creating its own "Las Vegas" in special gaming zones.
"Are we going to move? Of course we are not," said Konstantin Kopylov, the owner of Crystal. "You cannot run business on someone's wish. Business is run in the areas where profit can be made."
Many casino owners said they would start gambling business abroad.
According to the Moscow city government, income from gambling tax contributes some 6 billion rubles ($193 million) to the capital's budget. Moscow has about 30 casinos, with around 1 million visitors last year, and about 500 smaller gambling halls.