Demirchian’s Family Opposes Yerevan Casino Sports Complex

The Karen Demirchian sports complex was recently privatized
The Karen Demirchian sports complex was recently privatized

The Karen Demirchian sports complex was recently privatized

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The wife of the late Karen Demirchian spoke out on Tuesday against the planned opening of a casino at Yerevan’s main sports and concert arena bearing the name of Armenia’s longtime Soviet-era leader.

The sprawling arena commonly known as Hamalir (Complex) was built in 1983, becoming one of the most modern facilities of its kind in the Soviet Union. Demirchian, Soviet Armenia’s top Communist leader from 1974-1988, was instrumental in its expensive construction. This is why it was named after Demirchian shortly after he was assassinated in October 1999, just a few months after becoming parliament speaker.

According to Demirchian’s widow Rima, he cried when Hamalir was seriously damaged by a fire in 1984. “Hamalir was a piece of his soul and his body. It was his brainchild,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (

The complex consisting of two large halls was sold in 2005 to the Moscow-based construction firm BAMO belonging to an Armenian-born Russian businessman. The Armenian government controversially renationalized it last year, citing BAMO’s failure to repay a $25 million government loan.

Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian inaugurates the Hamalir sport and concert arena, Yerevan, October 31, 1983

Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian inaugurates the Hamalir sport and concert arena, Yerevan, October 31, 1983

The government announced last week that it has decided to sell Hamalir to an obscure private firm for $30 million. It said that the new owner has pledged to invest $100 million in expanding the facility and turning it into a big entertainment center that will have not only concert halls but also a hotel, water park, stores, restaurants and a casino.

The deal has been denounced by some opposition politicians and prominent public figures critical of the government. They have objected, among other things, to the planned casino, citing Hamalir’s proximity to the Tsitsernakabert Armenian genocide memorial.

Rima Demirchian also expressed serious concern over the casino, saying that it would be an affront to her husband’s memory. “I have no doubts that if they open a casino it will become an ugly version of Las Vegas,” she said.

Demirchian said she still hopes that the government will amend the deal to ban any gambling sites at Hamalir. She warned that failure to do so would lead her and other members of the Demirchian family to demand that Hamalir no longer bear the late leader’s name.

“I will remain categorically against the casino,” she stressed. “For all my understanding and respect [for government decisions,] this is an issue on which I will be uncompromising.”

Shortly after Karen Demirchian was gunned down along with seven other officials in a terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament, his younger son Stepan became an opposition politician. He was the main opposition candidate in a 2003 presidential election widely believed to have been rigged in favor of then President Robert Kocharian.

Stepan Demirchian is currently a parliament deputy representing the opposition Armenian National Congress. He has not publicly commented on the Hamalir controversy yet.


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  1. Nazo said:

    Last year the governor of Suniik beat a buisneswomn in hotel lobby, he resign, than the president reappointed him, because he gives a lot of money to the president, the bodyguard of former mayor beats the bodyguard of the president, the president appoints the mayor transportation minister, and now this, how much money the president needs to say I have enough, now let me work on fixing the country’s problems.

  2. Armenian said:

    Let’s turn all of Armenia into a casino! We’re allowing the oligarchs to gamble its future and everything in it away– why not?!

    I am shocked and saddened at how incredibly short-sighted and impulsive the leadership of Armenia is. Just another reason why they ought to go.

  3. Lisa said:

    OKAY everyone, guess what I KNOW this guy, because i know his girlfriend. This guy is a crook and is FOOLING everyone. I feel so sorry for Armenians. Dino STOLE so much money from Armenian and non Armenian investors and when he got caught, he BAILED out and RAN to Armenia. Let me tell you about his character and his girlfriends character. DINO AWADISIAN was married and had an affair with JULIE MOURADYAN aka (KUZIKYAN). She came here ILLEGALLY with a fake passport with her MOTHER NARA OHANYAN (Amalya Ohanova), (Glendale,CA). NARA OHANYAN and her son VARDAN KUZIKYAN (VARDAN DAV= (facebook name) who lives and works in ARMENIA helped him RUN away and introduced him to ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT official who took bribes and gave him a business deal with the STOLEN money from innocent people. So him and his girlfriend and her family helped him with the CRIME and are CASHING in and having fun. You should see the fancy trips and expensive cars and bags they carry, sitting at home and not working and having fun with his 3 children.’’