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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 01:04 GMT
Kazakhstan tackles gambling craze
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Almaty

Slot machines in Las Vegas. File photo
Kazakhstan has nearly as many slot machines as the US
Kazakhstan has taken drastic steps to fight the nation's gambling craze by ordering all gambling halls and casinos to move to just two lakeside towns.

The government measure took effect on 1 January, although construction is far from finished in both towns.

The new resorts - outside the main cities of Almaty and Astana - have been dubbed the Las Vegas of Central Asia.

There seems to be plenty of discontent among the country's gamblers, but it is not expressed openly.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev is behind the idea, and in Kazakhstan nobody argues with him.

'Gambling mania'

Kazakhstan's new oil wealth has brought along a desire to spend - and a major gambling boom.

Skyscraper, Almaty
Kazakhstan's economy is booming, fuelling interest in casinos

From poorly-lit amusement arcades to high-class casinos, there are more than 2,000 gambling halls in the country.

That is almost as many as in the United States, although Kazakhstan's population is about 20 times smaller.

But now President Nazarbayev wants to clean up Kazakhstan's gambling industry.

As of January, all of the country's casinos, roulette tables, bookmakers and amusement arcades had to pack up to operate in the new sites.

Kazakhstan's finance minister says the move will help to fight the harmful effects of what she called the country's gambling mania.

A similar legislation - suggesting moving all casinos to designated towns - was recently introduced in Russia.

Russian law to restrict casinos
21 Dec 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Kazakhstan
10 Dec 06 |  Country profiles
Kazakhs pondering 'desert Vegas'
02 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific

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