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Anne Lindner
 

Russian Firm Steps up to the Plate

14 December 2001

Internet gambling is openly legal in one part of Russia, a small Asian republic called Kalmykia bounded on the southwest by the Caspian Sea and on the northeast by the Volga River.

Kalmykia is known for offering relatively inexpensive I-gaming licenses that allow the site operator to set up shop in any country. In the rest of the Russian Federation, however, the rules that govern gambling, particularly online gaming, are sketchy, said Tikhonova Yelena, who runs a Moscow-based multimedia design studio that offers an online casino software package.

Yelena is the director of Avesta Design Studio, an agency that designs interactive programs including multimedia CD-ROMs, promotional movies and Web sites. The company's Internet casino software can be used for both real-money play and free play.

Yelena said Russian law does not define or regulate Internet gambling, but that an approach for companies wishing to gain such a license is to apply for a casino license and try to add the ability to offer the casino's services on the Internet to the terms of the agreement. While such a feat is difficult to accomplish, Yelena said she has heard of a few companies who have gone that route.

As for Avesta Design, the agency was founded in 1998 and focuses on Flash technology, which Yelena said was almost unknown in Russia at the time the company began. The first mission Avesta set for itself was the popularization of the Web design application. When using flash, players need not download or install games.

"We think that, as a creative agency specializing in developing interactive projects with Macromedia Flash, our studio may be considered as one of the leading agencies in Russia," Yelena said.

Two years ago, Avesta designed Casino 2000, which was launched March 23, 2000. Since that time the site has become one of the leading sources of gambling information for the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas. It also offers a play-for-fun virtual casino with games including roulette, blackjack, slots, video poker and bingo, as well as brain-bending games like memory, wordmaker and a movie quiz. In addition, the site has a wheel of fortune through which registered users can win prizes.

Casino 2000, located at www.casino2000.ru, has 52,519 registered users and receives about 1,300 visitors per day.

Avesta makes a play-for-real add-on for the casino software, but does not itself operate an online casino, Yelena said. She said Avesta would add real-money play to the site if either Russian or foreign investors showed interest in the project.

"It has a big audience; it is a very good gambling portal with a number of additional services and information along with virtual casino, so offering real-money gambling might even make it even more popular," she said.

Avesta does not have plans to establish its real-money online casino, Yelena said, but the company does sell its software that facilitates real-money play. Unlike most casino software companies, Avesta doesn't charge royalties to buyers of its online technology package.

"We just sell the package--no profit share or elsewhat [sic]--just pay the price and use the software," Yelena said.

In four years of operation, Avesta has completed two versions of the online casino software. The second and latest version features improved visuals, an online help system, full tech support and redesign of the technology according to the client's needs and payment system.

The first casino package the company did was in partnership with Hanet Internet Services, a Dutch company that took part in setting up Casino 2000. The Russian agency also established fun-play sites with Holland Casino, located on the Web at http://www.hollandcasino.nl, and RTLImedia, which is located at http://www.rtl.nl. It's also a partner with www.netgaming.com of Canada, which offers real-money play using the Avesta package.

Due to the global nature of the online gaming industry, Avesta, like many other companies who create software or other components vital to the business, resides in a region where the legality of I-gaming is fuzzy at best. However, Yelena, like many directors and staff of the same companies, realizes the legal environment is nothing if not dynamic.

"I'm confident that soon we can expect a new legislation for this business, as it becomes more and more popular here," she said.

Russian Firm Steps up to the Plate is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner