Casinos and other gambling establishments across Russia were legally obliged to shut on Wednesday, as a law aimed at curbing gambling addiction came into effect.
In Moscow, police overnight verified that some 513 gaming venues, among them 29 casinos, were complying with the ban, which came into effect at midnight.
The law was signed at the end of 2006 by then-president Vladimir Putin, and allows gambling venues only in four special zones in Russia. Few facilities have until now been developed in these areas, however.
Experts anticipate that illegal gambling will take off in the face of the ban. Russian gaming firms, meanwhile, have invested strongly in slot-machines in Italy and Germany. Internet betting is also likely to see an explosion in online activity.
The ministry of finance estimates that there are around 100,000 gaming machines in the country, and that up to 350,000 people who work in the industry could lose their jobs.
The gaming industry is reckoned to have a four billion-euro annual turnover. Poker (without monetary stakes), lotteries and betting on sport are still allowed. Russian doctors estimate that many problem gamblers will have to receive psychiatric help to quash their addiction.