|Though the Vegas-style casino in this Russian city on the border with China has no more than “seven slot machines, a roulette wheel and three poker tables”, it had had an average of 30 customers per night, most of them Chinese, until the recent scare of SARS popped up recently in Blagoveshchenk. |
The Chinese are the best customers here, ordinarily. “We like to gamble with the Russians,” said 21-year-old Li Yanchou, a male student at a Blagoveshchensk Teachers' Institute. “Tourists, businessmen who have money -- a lot of them would like to come here. But they're not,” said Li about the SARS scare.
There are about 10 other casinos in town and none of them are doing any better.
Blagoveshchensk is described as “a down-at-the-heels city of 170,000 in remote southern Siberia,” but it “has carved itself a prosperous niche as the mecca for Chinese gamblers. Or had, until the ailment of a local man who was tentatively diagnosed in early May as Russia's only known case of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Faster than you can say 'snake eyes', local border posts snapped shut and the casinos' Chinese clientele all but dried up.”
It wouldn’t happen on the Internet.