Two casinos that have been operating in Myanmar for more than two decades have been put under the government’s microscope for possible gambling violations.
Myanmar Times identified the two casinos that are now on a regional government watch-list as Grand Andaman Resort, located on the 1800-acre Thahtay Island, and Victoria Entertainment Resort on Treasure.
Both resorts were reportedly being marketed to Thai rollers, who are legally banned from gambling in their home country. Myanmar’s Regional chief minister DawLaeLae Maw said they are now scrutinizing whether their operations are legal under the 1899 Burma Gambling Act.
Despite a ban on casinos in Myanmar, Grand Andaman and Victoria have been running since the 1990s. Each casino resort pays K250 million (US$209,490) annually in income tax to the Union government, according to regional government statistics.
They, however, become a subject of investigation after a turn of political events in the former military-supervised state that swept the National League for Democracy in power.
“We don’t know what the previous government allowed them to do, but we are translating all the agreements from English to Myanmar in order to check. It seems that they are only permitted to offer gambling with token coins [used in slot machines],” Maw said in an exclusive interview with the news website.
When she was asked about the possible penalties should the two casinos found violating Myanmar’s gambling act, Maw assured the operators of the two casinos that the government will not order their closure.
Maw also insisted that the regional government does not want to take the casino owners to court.
Instead, Maw said that the regional government will impose tighter restrictions in accordance with the gambling act. She added that negotiations between the government and the owners are now on-going.
“I have already met with U KyawLwin, the owner of Grand Andaman Resort, to negotiate. The contract covers small-scale gambling. It does not allow 200 people to travel to the island each day to gamble large sums of money,” she said. Grand Andaman Resort is just a few kilometres by boat from the Thai city of Ranong.
“He has also raised his own difficulties with the investment. I think we will have to talk some more,” she said, adding that she believes the resort is struggling to attract enough visitors to fill its rooms.
Grand Andaman Executive Director U Myo Win Than insisted that their operations are legal, saying that the previous administration gave its blessings for them to operate in order to boost the country’s tourism.
The company received Myanmar Investment Commission approval for the project in July last year, and committed to an investment of US$12.14 million.
“The Tanintharyi Region chief minister told us that if our operations were not in line with the 1899 Gambling Act, we should try to follow the rules and laws and help promote tourism in Kawthoungtownship, because other businesses in the area are not doing well,” he said.
“This pilot project to boost tourism over the past 20 years was started by the government itself. When we bought the resort in 2015, we were given a 50-year licence to operate,” U Myo Win Than said.