Russian President Vladimar Putin would not be someone you would think of when talking about gambling or casinos.  Once quoted as saying that casinos preyed on the dimwitted and compulsive, Putin has essentially outlawed gambling for Russians, but apparently he is more than happy to profit from dimwitted and compulsive foreigners.  The Russian Government under Putin has poured billions of dollars into the eastern seaport of Vladivostok in an effort to transform it into a clone of Las Vegas and Macau.  Vladivostok is located on the pacific ocean just north of China, the Koreas and Japan and across the ocean from Alaska and British Colombia.

The selection of Vladivostok as the destination is an ideal strategic location because of the proximity to three economic powerhouses in South Korea, China and Japan, all of which have very stringent restrictions against gambling inside their own borders.   The situation is similar to what occurred with Windsor, Canada, which is located just across the border and with easy access to several US states with strict gambling laws.

At this point ( Summer 2017) there is only one casino operating in Vladivostok, with between four to eight more in various states of construction or planning.   It is obvious from the restaurants and themes that the target audience are rich asians traveling north rather than Russians traveling east.   It goes so far that some restaurants have menu´s that are printed in four languages… Korean, Japanese, Chinese and English… without a word in Russian.   There are also stories that the hotels, casinos and restaurants are recruiting staff from the border areas with China and North Korea so they will have native speakers available for foreign travelers.

As with most things Russian, the ideas and strategy are good, but the execution is poor.  Almost all of the hotels and casinos are well behind schedule and over budget, and the one operating casino has received horrible reviews which, to me, sound similar to the news reports coming from athletes who played in the Sochi Olympic games.  Hotel rooms assigned to guests without basic things like doorknobs, toilet seats etc.  And when your clientele are rich foreigners and not twenty-something athletes, the same conditions are not going to be tolerated.   It doesn´t help that Putin´s quote regarding gamblers being dimwitted and compulsive is frequently rehashed by critics and would-be travelers.