A building that is part of the North Korean Embassy in Moscow is being used as an illegal casino, Russian media reported Thursday. According to the daily Izvestia, the North Korean government rented out a 2,000 sq.m administrative building adjoining the embassy to a company which registered it as a restaurant, but Russian authorities believe a casino has been operating there since December.
The casino and the Embassy proper are separated by a fence, and only guests with bookings can enter. The casino has four roulette tables on the second floor, five poker and blackjack tables and around 30 slot machines, while the third floor is reserved for VIP guests.
Russia banned casinos in major cities in July 2009, sending casino operators underground and prompting them to rent buildings belonging to foreign governments in a bid to take advantage of their extraterritorial status.
Citing experts, Izvestia said there is no way North Korean diplomats were unaware that their building was being used as a casino, and it is likely that it connived as a means to earn foreign currency for the regime.
Izvestia said some operators negotiated with the embassies of some poor African countries keen to earn rental income from casinos on their premises. Russian authorities believe a casino was set up in the Belarus Embassy as well. The North Korean Embassy in a statement Thursday said, "There has never been any casino on the premises of our embassy."