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American-style casino opens in Iraq

Kalashnikovs checked at door

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Not to be outdone by the establishment of the American University of Iraq in the northern Iraqi city of Suleimaniya, a ballsy Russian businessman, Vitaly Kouznetzov, has helped bring another, sexier, slice of American life to the Iraqi Kurds: he's brought a touch of Las Vegas to that same Kurdish cultural capital with the launch of an American-style casino. Take that, al-Qaeda.

Suleimaniya is located near the border with Iran, and has long been considered a bastion of liberalism in a part of the world known more for intolerance and chaotic bloodshed. Public Radio International (PRI) interviewed Mr. Kouznetov today, and in it he explains to his bemused interviewer, Lisa Mullin, just how he has managed to open a casino in a Muslim country riven by civil strife and religion-inspired killing.

Money to be made?

Very good customers, he notes - just look at their cars.

Not at all worried about security, huh?

Actually, security is quite good, he says, much to Mullin's surprise. Of course everyone is armed. Everyone carries Kalashnikovs, but we have a room by the door where they can check them, one hour, two hours, however long they need.

Booze? Just beer. Well, that's better than nothing. We hear it's hot there.

The full interview, including Mr. Kouznetov’s description of gambling and the Koran, can be found here

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