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Correspondent 12

Not exactly royalty in local casinos

By Paul Miazga

Though I’m not a huge risk taker, I do enjoy the odd trip out to the casino. It’s not so much about the thrill of winning money (though that helps) but about having fun at black jack, poker, roulette and other games. That was, until I came to Kyiv.

Several aspects of gaming in Kyiv put me off: the disgusting corruption surrounding the mere existence of casinos; the proliferation of neon-lit gaming shops in virtually every metro station and on almost every street corner; the lack of class among casino patrons and owners, and the lack of gaming culture here, and so on.

This lattermost aspect really puts me off. You see, I would like to go out more to casinos here in Kyiv, but the culture is almost non-existent. Walk into most any casino in town and it’s neither the glamorous high-life of James Bond’s “Casino Royale” nor a more common gaming house where people from all walks of life are playing. Instead, it’s just the local hoods with their bimbo blondes who rarely understand the idea of trying to work together to beat the house, and the drinks are rarely free and the dealers look like they’re on death row in Texas.

Take for instance poker. Across the world poker, especially the Texas Hold ’em variant, has become wildly popular, with tournaments popping up all over the place: Brighton, England; Barcelona; Moscow; Budapest, even Kharkiv, but not Kyiv. Kyiv has had international poker tournaments, but they’re usually really penny ante fare and few come out to play for the meager stakes on offer. So, instead, friends and I have begun playing at home one night a week for equally modest stakes, but it’s fun and the only thing we lack is the casino feel from back home, where the dealer smiles, the table is green felt and the players have the guts and style of Matt Damon’s character in “Rounders.”

For those who are thinking of going out to try Kyiv casinos, start with Arena Casino in the Arena City complex, the Imperial Casino behind Olympic Stadium, Joss Casino on the Left Bank or the Premiere Casino in the Premiere Palace Hotel. As for the others, you’re not likely to find players of the quality you want, or you’ll find too many hoods, making you feel if you win like you’re leaving with their money.

Good phone rates

My girlfriend and I recently switched cell phone providers and now call each other for free any time of day for as long as we want. In fact, we can call anyone in the network for free and talk as long as we want. How? Easy. We chose life:).

The recent price war that began in Ukraine’s cell phone services market continues to heat up, as Turkey’s Astelit has been playing hardball to wipe out newcomer Beeline from Russia and to gain increased market share from near monopolies UMC and Kyivstar. It’s a huge bonus for phone users, who for years were forced to accept the prices dictated by UMC and Kyivstar, and I highly recommend anyone in Ukraine for any period of time to take advantage of this life:) offer. The tariff package costs Hr 40 at startup, offers excellent deals on calls outside the network as well, and is good until the end of 2007. Another excellent aspect of life:) is that their coverage network includes virtually every city in Ukraine with a population of 50,000 or more.

Suddenly, the big guys have woken up and now they’re offering cheap start-up deals and lower tariff rates, but nothing like what life:) has to offer at the moment. Check it out. I’m saving roughly Hr 100 per month thanks to this plan, and I don’t even talk or SMS that much.

“Kyiv casinos are not nearly as cool as those in the new James Bond film “Casino Royale,” a remake of the 1967 spy spoof featuring Peter Sellers.” (www.free-codecs.com)


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