Shangri La Casino in Minsk, Belarus is the most “Russian” unit in the famous operator Storm International structure. 40 percent of its visitors are Russians.
The reason why the company has become an investor in Belarus is the proximity to Moscow: one-hour flight, the same communication’s language, not the same, but similar mentality – this is what allowed the VIP segment from Moscow to be kept. For those who still wanted to play at Storm International casino, the company provided the closest possible option.
Like the Storm International owner, Michael Boettcher, said in interview, 40% of the clients in Shangri La Casino Minsk are Russians. This is the highest percentage among all its establishments.
In Yerevan, in a similar casino, a rather high percentage of local players and guests from Iran, there are about 20% of Russians. Tbilisi casinos are popular with visitors from the Middle East and the CIS, but Russians are even less there – 10-15%. Many representatives of Russia come to play in the casino network in Riga, but so far the percentage is inferior to Minsk casino – 30%.
Storm International was the largest gambling market operator before the ban on gambling in Russia in 2008. In Moscow, the company owned 5 casinos, slot halls network, bars and restaurants. After legislative restrictions, Michael Boettcher was forced to transfer his business to other countries. In 2008, the Shangri La casino was opened in Yerevan, in 2009 – in Minsk, in 2012 – in Tbilisi and in 2017 – in Riga. The businessman also owns slot halls network in Germany and recently he has invested in slot halls in Ghana.
Darren Keane, Storm International managing director, said the company is pleased to have come to Belarus. From the moment the casino moved here, the brand had no problems. The government was very respectful: they immediately welcomed Storm International as investors. He expressed bewilderment why other investors are so worried: is it because it is a part of the former Soviet Union? But this does not mean that there is something wrong or illegal. Darren Keane would recommend investing in Belarus: this is a wonderful country, great people and ease of doing business.
In Minsk is developing, there are a lot of new buildings and the city is incredibly clean. People have become more welcoming and more open to foreigners than even 10 years ago. It is noticeable that Belarus is well evolving. Minsk is becoming a little more European. But at the same time, Mr. Keane does not believe that Minsk will be able to become a fully European city, due to its geographical location and language, historically it is very closely connected with Russia. Most likely, it will always be so.
The Minsk unit’s staff recognize addicted players and stop them during the game. Employees are trained in accordance with the “Responsible Gaming” program. If they see a person who acts and behaves impulsively or nervously in Shangri La, then they talk to him and sometimes the game can be stopped. The player may be asked to leave the casino, because the network does not need players who can lose money, not intended for leisure, or, perhaps, not owned by them. Gambling is, above all, entertainment, which should not be an addiction or a problem.
Storm International believes that Belarus is one of the biggest European secrets. In fact, not many people in the world know about this country at all. And investing in a country is a very good opportunity: a welcoming government that is looking for investments, who also helps a lot in business, wonderful hardworking people, good tax conditions.
Darren Keane noted that he would recommend any business to invest in Belarus. Gambling is a segment in Belarus that is not subject to local economic crises, because players always come from the “oil” regions – Azerbaijan and Russia.