Casinos are among the lures Russia is using to promote tourism and investment into the underpopulated but resource rich Far East region. Photo: Vitaliy Ankov / RIA Novosti / Sputnik
Casinos are among the lures Russia is using to promote tourism and investment into the underpopulated but resource rich Far East region. Photo: Vitaliy Ankov / RIA Novosti / Sputnik

Primorsky Krai authorities in Far East Russia have voided an agreement with Royal Time Primorye after it failed to follow through on an investment to build a casino resort.

The company was due to build the Zhar-Ptsitsa (Firebird) resort, according to a contract made in February 2015. The project was valued at $215 million and included a casino, hotels, an aqua park, a mall and a concert arena. Construction was due to being in the spring of 2016.

“If investors are not able to keep to the agreed plan, we will find others,” an official in the Primorsky Krai administration said. “There are several others who have already declared interest.”

The state company in charge of the development, Primorsky Krai Development Corporation, also said it is not worried about finding a replacement investor in the zone, which has space for several so-called integrated resorts with casinos and other facilities.

“The land plot allotted to Royal Time Primorye will be auctioned off,” Sofia Korotina, the spokeswoman for the state corporation, told Asia Times. “The corporation is trying to attract new investors to the project. At a recent expo in Macau, we reached certain agreements.”

The Royal Time license may pass to Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp Ltd., which has expressed an interest in buildings its second casino in the Far East gaming zone to add to the $350 million resort it currently has under construction there.

The subsidiary of Lawrence Ho’s Summit Ascent (Macao), G1 Entertainment, is also keen to add a second facility.

Summit Ascent opened doors to the first and, for the moment, only casino in the gaming zone, the Tigre de Cristal complex, but it is already developing plans for a second.

Opening time at the Tigre de Cristal casino less than an hour’s drive from Vladivostok. Photo: Vitaliy Ankov/RIA Novosti

Ho’s company seeks to develop a 100,000-square meter complex that includes a hotel, mall, food court, restaurants, bars, a conference and banquet hall, a spa salon, and possibly a golf course. The investment is expected to reach $500 million.

Space for the Primorye integrated resort zone was allocated in Muravyinaya Bay, close to Vladivostok.

It has 619 hectares of space, and apart from casinos will house 21 hotels, 12 guest villas, a yacht club, a skiing piste, and other facilities targeting all year round tourism. The project is being developed in three stages, with the last due to be completed in 2022.

The Tigre de Cristal complex opened in 2015 and is the largest Chinese investment in the Far East region of Russia.

Since opening, it has attracted more than 350,000 visitors, according to Primorsky Krai tourism department data. More than 20% of those are from other countries, mostly China.

Three companies are currently developing projects in the Primorye zone: G1 Entertainment; Primorskiye Entertainment Resorts City, a subsidiary of NagaCorp.; and Russian investment holding Diamond Fortune Holdings Prim.

Diamond Fortune’s resort, the Selena complex, with a 4-star hotel, a casino, a spa complex, restaurants, and also shopping arcades. The company recently said it may complete the project a year ahead of schedule.

“We have received the necessary permits and have moved to the active phase of the construction,” said executive director of Diamond Fortune, Evgeniya Varakina. “Our agreement says that Selena complex should be completed in 2020. However, we are making every effort to make it happen in 2019.”

Total investment in the Far East gaming zone is expected to reach around $2.7 billion.