Battle ready

Russia unites to inflict greater tax and licensing burdens on operators and manufactures.

Russia is to see the doubling of its taxes on the gambling industry following a new parliamentary amendment. The Russian parliament’s budget and tax committee reviewed its previous decision to freeze gaming taxes and instead endorsed an amendment proposed by party leaders to increase the state duty for a gambling licence 10,000 fold, from 3,000 rubles (US $105) to 30m rubles (US $1.05m). This year, the industry’s turnover is projected at US $5.3bn, from which gambling machines will account for $ 4.5bn. It’s estimated that Russia currently has 360,000 such machines with a market that continues to rise and already contributes nearly one per cent to country’s GDP. In addition to the federal licence on gambling networks, regional licenses will also be introduced. These cost 300,000 rubles ($10,475) and will be issued to each gambling establishments. Not everyone is happy with the new system though, which experts believe will create a Russian gaming oligopoly. “This is not redistribution, this is the humiliation of online gambling business,”  said Samoil Binder, Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Gambling Association.

“Only three to four players will be left in the market. ” Another industry representative described the decision as absurd, because it envisaged charging 15,000 rubles ($ 524) per month for machines that yield just 18,000 rubles ($628). However, The authors of the amendments are not concealing their intent. “We are seeking to shrink the market,” stated Valery Draganov, chairman of the Parliament’s Committee for Economic Policy. “We want to eliminate gambling halls that are randomly placed, badly equipped and not always legal. ” Deputy Igor Dines, chairman of the Gambling Business Committee of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stated that the decisions “are definitely political and have been influenced by the opinions of regions and the public. ” He commented that the federal authorities are to blame for the conflict because earlier they abolished the regional system of control over the industry.

Further meetings ended with the appointment of the ministry of Finance as the institution that will regulate the gaming business. It will ‘develop state policy and regulations for gaming business and gambling”.The Prime ministry Mr. Fradkov tasked the ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Internal Affairs to create a resolution project concerning licensing gambling activities. In the meantime, the State Duma has approved Mr. Dines ’ recommendation to postpone new regulations for manufacturing licensing. Mr. Dines proposed to cancel the ban inflicted on Russian gaming manufactures on July 27, 2005. Up to the present, the government does not have a certification and licensing policy for gaming equipment manufacturers, making any manufacturing illegal. Mr. Dines proposes to start regulating manufacturer licensing not earlier than June 1, 2006.

Barcrest delivers games for Unicum’s Adventures

Barcrest and Unicum have announced that they are to work in partnership to develop and market video based gaming machines, primarily in the Russian regional casino market. The games will be designed by a small, specialist video team at Barcrest Games in the UK dedicated to the Russian market and manufactured by Unicum in its state-of-the-art factory in St Petersburg in Russia. Jointly branded, the video-based games will be marketed exclusively by Unicum Group in the Russian regional casino market. The start of the partnership was celebrated during the EELEX show in December by the launch of two games, Wild Taxi and Grand Casino, both of which have aroused interest after successful testing. Both games will becomes members of 5nicum Adventures II portfolio, the platform which will also be introduced to Russian operators at the upcoming exhibition. Lee Berridge, Managing Director Sales and Commercial for Barcrest Group explained: “We are delighted to be working with 5nicum 5nicum is a well-established and greatly respected company with a reputation for excellent quality and service and our partner ship provides the key to developing a strong presence in this market. ” Yuri Larichev, chief Executive Officer for 5nicum Group added: ‘We are very excited to be working with Barcrest Group, a leading force in the gaming industry. They are providing games that complement 5nicum’s product portfolio and extend our offer to the regional casino market. ”

In its first move into UK territory, Century Casinos plans to develop and operate a casino in Croydon, Greater London. Century Casinos ’ partnet in the project is the Westmead Business Group, owner and operator of the Airport House and the Aerodrome Hotel in Croydon. The project will comprise a large casino (as defined in the UK Gambling Act 2005) with a customer area of at least 16,000sq.ft for a minimum of 30 gaming tables and 150 slot machines, an expansion of the hotel to 150 rooms, two restaurants and several bars, a health club, an events and conference centre for 300 guests, the existing airport museum, as well as fully serviced office suites. “The casino project at the Airport House and Aerodrome Hotel in Croydon promises to become one of the UK’s top new mid size casino destinations,” said Peter Hoetzinger, co CEO and President of Century Casinos. “The provisions of the new Gambling Act, allowing new casinos to offer table games, slot machines and entertainment on an international level, together with the excellent location and demographics of the proposed site, make this project a natural location for our proposed first UK casino development,” added Mr. Hoetzinger. John Power, chairman of the West mead Business Group, said: “The regeneration of the Aerodrome Hotel will have a positive impact on the economy of Croydon and the south London area. We are delighted to be working with Century Casinos to make this happen and to provide Croydon with high class casino entertainment facilities. ”

Industry veteran, Neil Lewis has joined UK-based Eclipse Gaming in the newly created position of New Business Development Manager. Eclipse is a proven content provider and third party developer across a range of entertainment and gaming disciplines, and the recruitment of Mr. Lewis is an important step in its continued aggressive expansion programme that will see the company grow to around 30 staff during 2006. Mr. Lewis stated: “In the digital age, third-party content development and provision is the way forward and Eclipse combines a mixture of proven expertise and hungry creativity to provide both multi-market and multi-platform development for the major movers in this   brave new gaming world. ”

Mark Hillman, CEO of Eclipse Gaming, describes his company as a true one-stop-shop for content provision across all areas of the poker gaming industry, with specialist teams dedicated to both established and non-traditional gaming market sectors. “We have been working very successfully with some of the UK and Europe’s leading platform providers for almost five years. ” The Eclipse customer base includes entertainment terminal providers, large blue-chip bookmakers, television production companies, mobile telephone network operators and internet gaming operators. Their main focus is video software development, but can also provide creative and technical consultancy, and support services.