Thursday, July 27, 2017

Govt may roll the dice on legal casino approvals

Casino licences may be issued to local hotels following the completion of a gambling law, though some question whether the country ought to have legalised gambling.

While some local media has reported that three-star and above hotels near border crossings will be allowed to operate casinos for foreigners only, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism officials say any such licences must wait for a gambling law.

“We haven’t issued any licences for casinos yet because it is still considered a type of illegal gambling,” said U Myo Win Nyunt, a director from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is currently worked to create a gambling law, he added.

Although opening casinos for foreigners may benefit certain hotels, others question whether it will benefit the tourism industry as a whole.

U Nay Lin Htike, an experienced tour guide and owner of Off the Beaten Track café, said tourists come to the country to be immersed in local culture and visit its sights.

Tourism particularly at the hotspots of Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake is best pursued by local people and travel professionals jointly developing the industry, he said.

Casinos would likely only benefit the government through tax revenues, as well as casino owners and their direct workers, while at the same time increasing criminal cases due to the influence of gambling, according to U Nay Lin Htike.

“The government could face lots of trouble from allowing casinos, even though it will get tax money,” he said. “There will be many disadvantages and only a few benefits after opening casinos – in my opinion they shouldn’t be allowed.”

However, if Myanmar does decide to allow casinos, then gambling ought to be strictly controlled, he said. U Nay Lin Htike added casinos might also be more appropriate in self-administering areas.

Tourism has been on the upswing since the 2011 reforms in Myanmar. The country welcomed 2 million foreign arrivals to the country last year, about double the number in 2012.

Myanmar routinely welcomed 750,000 to 800,000 tourists annually from 2009 to 2011.

Thailand was the largest single source of tourists to Myanmar in 2013, making up about 15 percent of the totoal, followed by China and Japan. The United States was the largest non-Asian source, representing about 6pc of total arrivals.