Five of Myanmar’s 13 state and regional chief ministers have petitioned the central government to end its ban on casinos in the country, arguing that casinos will attract high-end foreign tourists and help fund their regions’ development.
The chief ministers of Mandalay and Tanintharyi regions and Shan, Kayin, and Mon states made their case during a meeting with Vice President Henry Van Thio in Naypyidaw in last month, according to Myanmar Tourism Federation chairman Yan Win, who participated in the meeting.
“The vice president didn’t respond yet, but it may happen later on,” Yan Win told the Myanmar Times.
Vice President Henry Van Thio serves as the chairperson of a government committee responsible for developing Myanmar’s tourism industry.
“Most ASEAN countries legally allow casino gambling, but it is still illegal in our country,” Yan Win said. “That is why many chief ministers sought permission to operate casinos in hotels.”
He added that casinos in hotels would generate revenue for state and regional governments.
Gambling and casinos are banned under Myanmar’s Gambling Law, but there are several hotel casinos in the country’s border areas that the government passively allows to operate. A casino near the Thai border in Myawady has stirred public debate since it was reported that the revenue it generates has been directed toward local development projects. Critics of casinos say they fuel conflict and other illicit industries and harm local communities.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs is trying to amend some laws. If they make changes in the current gambling law, casinos can be allowed to operate legally. Currently, this issue is still under discussion,” Yan Win said.
Khin Zaw, an advisor to Myanmar’s minister of hotels and tourism, told the Myanmar Times that casinos would help attract luxury travelers from elsewhere in Asia, whose numbers are already on the rise as visitors from Western countries decline.
“Opening casino gambling for tourists has more of a positive impact than a negative one. We have submitted our requests to the relevant authorities. I hope they will consider it since operating casinos for tourists has many potential upsides for industry,” the advisor said. “But the law should systematically restrict [gambling for] local people.”
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