Michael Boettcher, the founder of Storm International, has owned five major gambling establishments in the Russian Federation. However, after the gambling ban in 2009, he, like many other industry leaders, moved his business not to the gambling zones of Russia, but to neighboring countries.
In an interview with Vedomosti, the former owner of Shangri La Casino said that back in 2005 it was clear that the gambling industry needed to be reformed, but not by a total ban.
“The problem of the Russian gambling business was not in the slot halls or casinos, but in the absence of effective regulatory methods and competent legislation. I initially warned that the gambling business will go into the shadows. And so it happened, ” Boettcher said in the interview.
According to the expert, reforming the gambling industry in Russia and the choice of gambling zones scenario was ineffective.
“I’ve visited all the gambling zones in Russia. They are poorly located – 200 km to the nearest road, the level of service is depressing, there are no visitors. Almost everyone is now fighting for survival, ” adds the entrepreneur.
Boettcher claims that, prior to the closure of the gambling business in the Russian Federation, its turnover, according to rough estimates, was $ 6-9 billion. However, he notes that there are no official statements on these data.
According to Boettcher, about 40% of Storm International casino visitors in Belarus come from Russia. In Latvia, the Russians make up 30% of the total number of players.
“We continue to work in the gambling business. After the closure of the gambling business in Russia we turned our attention to neighboring countries. The first casino “Shangri La” was opened in 2008 in Yerevan, the next one – in Minsk. At the same time, a network of slot clubs appeared in Germany, entertainment venues in Mexico (this business was sold in 2016), in 2012 they opened the Shangri-La casino in Tbilisi, and in 2017 in Riga. I also can mention the project in Ghana from the new ones. There is a small network of slot-rooms there, I still need to probe the market in order to make some significant investments. I now have about 2 thousand employees. If we talk about the geography of business, then in Belarus almost 40% are Russians, in Yerevan these are local players and guests from Iran, Russians are about 20%, mostly they come to Tbilisi from the Middle East and the CIS countries. There are a lot of Russians in Riga (up to 30%). ”