Putin’s term as president ended but even as prime minister he is considered the country’s most powerful politician. He exhibited some of that power last week when a gambling law he originated three years ago went into effect.
He decreed that all gambling, except at four special zones, located in far-flung regions of Russia, was to end. Police went from casino to casino, from slots parlor to slots parlor, ensuring that the equipment was removed or destroyed.
Although it was expected, the casino closings came as quite a shock to the country’s ever growing population of millionaires and even billionaires. Since the return of capitalism, the country’s population of wealthy individuals has grown rapidly.
Also shocked were the estimated 400,000 workers involved in the gaming industry who found themselves suddenly unemployed. This comes at a time when Russia’s economic crisis is growing and its unemployment is rising.
The Putin initiative reportedly came as a move to project his image as a clean-cut workaholic. Putin had complained that the gaming industry in Russia had been taken over by a criminal element.
Not affected by the edict were the growing number of poker clubs where the activity was considered a game of skill, not of chance. Also expected to grow as a result of the casino shutdown were the Internet sites that cater to poker players.
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