Rostov will be scratched from Russia’s list of approved casino zones, replaced by an area near the popular Black Sea resort city of Anapa.

The Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, approved the relocation, endorsing a bill passed by the lower house, the State Duma, this fall.

The new zone, called “Golden Sands,” is already drawing interest from investors, according to the English-language Moscow Times.

The move was initiated by Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachyov, who proposed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev the idea of moving the gambling zone to Anapa, according to the Times. The Azov City location in Rostov attracts neither players nor investors, Tkachyov said.

In relocating the zone, the lawmakers behind the legislation agreed that Rostov - one of the four outlying zones created when casinos were officially exiled from Russia’s big cities a few years ago - was not commercially viable, and there has been little movement there toward creating necessary infrastructure.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s office chimed in that the reasons for moving the zone were economic.

The Golden Sands site was unveiled at an investment forum in Sochi in September. It covers 1,000 hectares and is close to air and rail transport. Upwards of US$14 billion is being sought to transform the area with beaches, hotels, golf courses, marinas and entertainment venues.



MORE GERMAN STATES BACK MARKET REFORM


Another blow was struck at the public sector monopolies that have dominated Germany’s betting markets and which appear to be unraveling after years of economic and legal assaults.

In the latest move, the leaders of the German states of Saxony, Hesse, Bavaria and Hamburg have stated that their jurisdictions plan to join the state of Schleswig-Holstein in modifying the monopoly model for sports betting. This was communicated at a recent annual meeting of the heads of the states, who said they would be exiting the country’s Inter-State Gaming Treaty, which expires at the end of 2011.

Germany’s courts, including those at the highest level, continue to work through how to apply a series of rulings by the European Court of Justice that attempt to set proportional guidelines to determine when state monopolies have crossed the line into anti-competitive practices in violation of European Community free trade guarantees.



IPO A BIG SUCCESS FOR CZECH OPERATOR


Czech betting and gambling operator Fortuna Entertainment Group raised €78.3 million in the country’s first IPO since May 2008.

The offering, which went off on the Prague Stock Exchange at €4.30 a share, was twice oversubscribed, according to a report on the GamingIntelligence Web site. Fortuna sold 18.2 million shares, including 2 million newly issued shares, representing 35 percent of the company.

The offering values Fortuna at €223.6 million in terms of market capitalization.

Fortuna said it intends to use proceeds of the sale to launch a lottery project in the Czech Republic through a partnership with Greece’s Intralot, with any remaining proceeds to be used to increase the cash resources of the company.



TIPPERARY COUNCIL OKs CASINO PLANS


A €460 million, 900-acre entertainment complex in Tipperary that will include a casino has received planning permission from the local Council.

What is still missing in Ireland is legislation approving casinos, but a gambling venue is featured in the Tipperary development as currently planned. Those plans also call for the site to include a turf and all-weather racecourse, a greyhound track, a 500-room hotel, a golf course and an equestrian center among its attractions.

The location is in Twomileborris, close to Thurles and near the main roadway from Dublin to Cork.

It is expected to take three years to complete, according to a report in the Irish Examiner, and barring further objections, infrastructure work could begin early in 2011.

Supporters say the construction will create up to 1,000 jobs, with 2,000 permanent jobs generated once the complex is open.

Its principal backer is Richard Quirke, a former Tipperary policeman who runs an amusement and gaming arcade in Dublin.



UK's GALA CORAL NAMES NEW CEO


Gala Coral has tapped a couple of Britain’s retail giants to find a new chief executive and non-executive chairman.

The casino, bingo and betting giant, struggling under the large debt load left after a leveraged buyout earlier in the decade, hired former Marks & Spencer Director Carl Leaver as CEO, replacing Neil Goulden, who’d been filling the role temporarily after the resignation of Dominic Harrison following completion of a restructuring. Goulden is leaving the board of directors after nearly 10 years with the company.

Leaver worked for pub giant Whitbread and was CEO of De Vere Group before joining clothing and grocery chain Marks & Spencer, where he last held the position of director of international, home and direct.

Rob Templeman, CEO of department store chain Debenhams, was named non-executive chairman.



ROAD TO MOROCCO PROVING LUCRATIVE



The online world is abuzz over the emergence of Morocco as a new hotspot in the world of poker.

The relatively liberal gambling laws that prevail in the North African kingdom have spurred a steady increase in the number of poker tournaments hosted in the country, primarily in the tourist hub of Marrakech.

The recent Marrakech Poker Open at the Es Saadi Casino reportedly drew pros from across Europe and Asia and was won by an amateur French player. The Marrakech Poker Cup, sporting a heady US$100,000 entry fee, similarly attracted players from around the world. The top prize of $247,000 was taken home by Briton James Bord, who also won the Main Event of the Poker Stars World Series of Poker Europe tournament earlier this year.

The World Poker Tour also was scheduled to return to Morocco. Its debut WPT Marrakech drew 400 players last year who vied for a total prize pool of more than €1.8 million, which made it the largest poker tournament ever held in Africa. It was won by a Morocco-based Frenchman, Christophe Savary, who netted €377,262.



POLAND GETS TOUGH IN BATTLE AGAINST UNLICENSED SITES



The Polish government is moving ahead with plans to crack down on unlicensed Internet betting sites by attempting to prevent its citizens from betting online.

The Finance Ministry was scheduled to introduce legislation this month making it illegal to deposit money with any unlicensed Polish-language online betting site and to apply Polish law to all online gambling sites with Polish content wherever they are located in the world.

The crackdown - part of an effort to protect sanctioned sites, which are legal but limited in terms of what they offer compared with more sophisticated sites coming from outside the country - was launched following the resignation of the sports minister last year over ties to a gambling tax deal.

Initially, the plan was to ask ISPs to block access to a large number of sites, but that was dropped after a public outcry. But a ban on all forms of advertising was imposed, and the Polish Football Association was forced to drop a sponsorship deal with Unibet.

Poland’s online market is estimated to be worth more than 4 billion zloty (US$1.3 billion) per year.



NOVOMATIC OPENS NEW HQ IN ROMANIA


 Slots and operations giant Novomatic Group has opened a new headquarters in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest.

Romania is a big market for Novomatic, which has invested heavily in the country and operates more than 70 gaming venues there, and last month’s ribbon-cutting was attended by CEO Franz Wohlfahrt.

The €20 million facility, located on 12,000 square meters near the capital’s Otopeni Airport, houses 5,000 square meters of administrative offices and warehouse space.

Work began on the facility in 2008 and was completed in May.