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The Russian fruit machine market is skyrocketing
There were a mere 12,000 machines throughout the country, 1998. The number had exceeded 280,000 by last year's end, says Dengi (Money), a glossy Moscow-based weekly. There are no unified statistical standards for the flourishing business. Stanislav Bartnikas, marketing manager of the Ritzio Entertainment Group, which owns the Volcano fruit machine chain, evaluates the market at a tentative two billion dollars, with a 1.8 million-strong regular clientele-20 per cent of these gambling more frequently than twice a month. Kirill Shatilov, Jackpot Co. marketing manager, evaluates gamblers' expenses last year at $700-750 million, and the entire market at $1.2-1.4 billion. The number of fruit machines will get steady in Moscow within the next two years, expects Boris Belotserkovsky, Unicum group president. The city will have no more than 100,000 one-armed bandits. The city market was making much slower progress than national average even last year-roughly by 30 per cent, and demand in the provinces will by far outpace Moscow even within the few years to come, he forecasts. State Standardization Committee regulations of January 24, 2000, establish the payback threshold at 75 per cent, as against 98 per cent in the USA. However, Russia does not offer whatever arrangements to monitor compliance with those regulations, so there are no fair play guarantees. According to expert prognostication, chain mammoths will grab 80 to 90 per cent of the Russian fruit machine market within the next two years-three, at the slowest. Competition will shift into gamblers' physical evidence field. The payback coefficient will eventually develop into a competition tool. So, whatever its specifics, the Russian market is following the road its analogues have long trodden in the West
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