Legal casinos won’t be coming to Bangladesh anytime soon, at least, not if the general public has any say in the matter.
Bangladesh authorities continue to pursue their casino crackdown, which began last month with raids on dozens of illegal gambling operations nestled inside sporting clubs, most of which were in the capital Dhaka, some of which were run by the youth league of the ruling Awami League party.
This week, the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced that it had identified at least 20 individuals suspected of deriving significant wealth from illegal gambling operations. ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmud said the authorities were probing the suspects’ assets and that “no one will get exemption” from prosecution, regardless of their political affiliation or position.
The crackdown has already claimed some high-profile political scalps and this weekend saw the arrest of Ismail Chowdhury Samrat, president of the Dhaka South Jubo League, along with vice-president Enamul Hoque Arman. The pair are suspected of being at the top of the illegal casino food chain and Samrat’s own wife told local media that, while she was ignorant of any illegal gambling operations, her husband “had no affection for anything else” besides gambling.
Bangladesh is a majority Muslim country and a new Research International poll found that 97% of respondents supported the government’s casino crackdown. Cynicism abounds, as 58% of respondents said they believe the leaders of all Bangladesh political parties were “directly involved” in illegal gambling operations and another 34% believe they were indirectly involved.
The poll also found that 83% of respondents oppose the legalization of casinos in Bangladesh. Some members of the government have proposed setting up four designated casino zones in which foreign passport holders would be able to gamble, while other government officials have stated that such an idea would be an affront to the nation’s religious sensibilities.
Meanwhile, the ‘online casino kingpin’ arrested last week while trying to board a flight to Bangkok was denied bail this week and sent to jail for six months. Salim Prodhan allegedly operated online gambling businesses known as P24 Gaming and T21 with the help of a North Korean national he met in Thailand.
Like most of the other individuals snared in this crackdown, Prodhan hasn’t actually been charged with illegal gambling due to the lack of appropriate language in the country’s archaic 152-year-old gambling ban. Instead, those arrested have been hit with narcotics, alcohol and weapons charges, and at least one case of violating the Wildlife Conservation Act.