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Casinos will be allowed to operate only in Tsakhadzor, Sevan and Jermuk from January 1, 2013, if a government bill proposed earlier this month passes in parliament.
While announcing the news at the government session on June 6th, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian said it’s the ‘principal stance’ of President Serzh Sarkisian and himself, to ban casinos from operating in and near Yerevan and in central locations of the country.
This government initiative, along with plans to invest up to $100 million in the casiono business, is aimed at creating more tourist attractions and developing hotel and entertainment infrustructures at the abovementioned tourism locations.
Unlike President Sarkisian, who is said to be an avid gambler, I have very little understanding of casinos and casino business. From what I’ve seen of the Armenian casinos so far, while driving by their fancy buildings, this business needs no government investment, and certainly nothing like $100 million.
Most such casinos currently are located alongside the main highways leading to Yerevan. The highway connecting Yerevan’s main Airport to city is a special treat, since most international flights in and out of Armenia are, by some evil consipiracy, scheduled at midnight, tourists get to see a colorful, neon-decorated introduction to the country. I will certainly be missing that.
On another note, there are some real heavywights involved in the casino business. I would be quite interesting to know – how will anyone be able to force Gagik Tsarukian, who is commonly considered the richest, most influential businessman in Armenia, to shut down his brand new, multibillion dollar Shangrila Casino and move it into the wilderness.