Johannesburg (Reuters) – South Africa’s biggest casino operator Sun International is pressing ahead with a major development plan in Moscow despite a new Russian federal gambling law, it said on Tuesday.
In a statement, Sun International denied a newspaper report it had dropped the project, saying it „would remain engaged in order to advance this potential opportunity“, but said the project would take longer than anticipated.
The Weekender newspaper said in a report from Moscow quoting local government officials that Sun had pulled the plug on the project which it estimated to be worth some USD 2 billion.
„Sun has left the project as there is no commercial reason to start it. They could launch it now, but they will have to suspend it by 2009 (due to new laws),“ the newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying.
Sun said in October it was planning a significant investment near Moscow to build a casino complex with Russian Belaya Dacha Group. It said the plans were at an advanced stage, but did not disclose the cost of the project.
It said the final decision to proceed would depend on new gambling rules in the Moscow region. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law last year restrictions on gambling which aim to exclude casinos from major urban areas within two years.
But Sun Chief Executive David Coutts-Trotter said on Tuesday it seemed unlikely that once Russia had cracked down on illegal gambling, it would not allow regulated gambling in the capital.
„This is a process which has unfolded in a similar fashion in other jurisdictions, and we as potential investors support government’s policy objectives which we believe will yield stability and greater certainty in the marketplace,“ he said in a statement.