It was supposed to be the Las Vegas of Central Asia, a ritzy gambling city on the shores of a man-made lake that would attract high rollers from as far afield as China.
But four years after Almaty’s once-booming casinos were ordered to relocate 70 kilometers across the steppe to Kapshagay, this rather forlorn town – which quickly acquired the nickname Kaz Vegas – has yet to assume all the trappings of a glitzy gamblers’ paradise.
“If you compare this Kapshagay with Las Vegas, you’ve just never been to Las Vegas,” Oksana Kurganskaya, who once worked in Nevada’s gambling mecca and is now PR manager at Kapshagay’s Sun City casino, told EurasiaNet.org. “It’s just starting.”
Kaz Vegas sits on the shore of the Kapshagay reservoir, an hour’s drive from Almaty up a potholed highway flanked with advertisements beckoning gamblers to try their luck in the casinos.
The site is now home to 11 gambling establishments, their flashy facades incongruous against a backdrop of drab apartment blocks and crumbling Soviet-era industrial facilities. A 12th casino is set to open in May.
To read the full story
Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia. Dean C.K. Cox is the photo editor for EurasiaNet.