Finnish Casino Magnate: Estonia a Threat to SE Finland's Economy ({{commentsTotal}})

While some in Estonia have mixed feelings about the flood of Russian tourists and capital entering the country, a prominent Finnish businessman in the entertainment industry has lamented that Finland is falling behind in the battle for the cash-rich market.

Pekka Salmi, a casino owner of some repute on both sides of the Gulf of Finland, said it was regrettable that only a minority of Finns in the east of the country speak Russian.

"Russian tourists - not industry - are indispensable for the survival of southeastern Finland. Imatra, Lappeenranta and Joensuu have realized, but Savonlinna has not," said Salmi in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.

"Estonia must be kept in mind. Everything is cheap there and almost everyone speaks some Russian. It's easy to travel to Tallinn from St. Petersburg. There are amusements: the authorities wink at the brothel business. Political decisions should be made in Finland - above all, border crossing must be made smoother to keep passenger flows from stagnating," said Salmi.

Salmi, 70, has longstanding ties to Estonia. In September 1987, he opened a casino on the Georg Ots, a ship that served the then recently opened Helsinki-Tallinn line. Soviet authorities agreed to the venture as a way of bringing in hard currency and Finnish government helped ease the way as well, reported