Russia plans Las Vegas clone in Siberia

Siberia is known for many things. Long train rides that cover almost 6000 miles, massive tigers that hunt wild boar in snowy enclaves, and a lake whose depths reach deeper than any other lake in the world. Oh and cold. Wintry, unrelenting, freezing cold weather drapes Siberia in snow and below freezing temperatures for roughly half of the year. It is a place so remote and foreboding that if you look up “Siberian” on, you will be greeted with this definition:

“any undesirable or isolated locale, job, etc., to which one is assigned as punishment, a mark of disfavor, or the like.”

Despite this damning etymological association, Russia plans to build its version of Las Vegas in the wintry depths of Siberia. This Las Vegas East has been given the moniker “Siberian Coin,” which sounds more like a local band from Moscow than a mecca of gambling. The Altai region of Siberia will host the ambitious project located near the boarder of Kazakhstan and China. Russian developers have budgeted about $1 billion for the cause which includes the construction of 15 casinos and 30 hotels. According to Businessweek, outside experts expect the project costs to total $50 billion.So why Siberia? Several years ago, “President” Vladimir Putin banned casinos in all major Russian cities, restricting gambling to the far flung reaches of the Russian Federation. Overnight, successful Moscow gaming parlors shuttered their doors forever, and it is estimated that the edict cost Russia about half a million jobs. So far, casinos have been built in three faraway locations: Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Azov City, and Primorsky in the Far East. None have been very successful. While hopes for the “Siberian Coin” are high, its fate may follow a familiar trend due to the sheer remoteness of its geographical location. Siberia is known for many things, but it will be a long uphill battle before gambling is added to that list of associations.

Baikal by Boat

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted about Siberia’s Lake Baikal here on Gadling and so I was therefore pleased to run across an article about my favorite lake in last Sunday’s New York Times.

Unlike prior articles, and unlike my own trip to the lake four years ago, New York Times journalist Steven Lee Myers decided to explore the deepest lake in the world in the most natural way possible; by boat.

His six day journey took him to places that only boats can reach and allowed him to discover far more of the lake than I was ever able to do. In addition, he caught fish nearly any time he wanted, got up close to the nerpas–the lake’s rare fresh water seals–and even spotted some bears.

The boat, which sleeps eight people, took Myers to remote shores in an already remote part of the world where he hiked to remote lakes, visited remote settlements, and basically indulged in a remoteness that only the beauty of Lake Baikal can provide.

Damn it! I’m jealous. Next time, I am indeed taking the boat.