Two casinos in Taninthariyi under government scrutiny
TWO casino resorts in Tanintharyi Region’s southernmost Kawthoung township are on a regional government watch list, the chief minister told The Myanmar Times during an interview in Dawei last month.
Grand Andaman Resort, located on the 1800-acre Thahtay Island, and Victoria Entertainment Resort on Treasure Island are both marketed at Thai patrons, who are legally banned from gambling in their home country.
Casinos are also banned in Myanmar, though they can be found off the coast of Tanintharyi and along the border with China, most notably in towns such as Mong La and Muse in Shan State. Small private gambling establishments can also be found in other cities.
Both casinos have been running since the 1990s, but the National League for Democracy is keen to check whether their operations are legal under the 1899 Burma Gambling Act, regional chief minister Daw Lae Lae Maw said.
“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].”
If the regional government finds the casinos are operating illegally, it will not force them to stop operating, but will impose tighter restrictions in accordance with the gambling act, she added. She said she has already started negotiating with the owners.
“I have already met with U Kyaw Lwin, 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.
Daw Lae Lae Maw insisted that regional government does not want to take the casino owners to court, or to force them out of business after more than two decades. Each casino resort pays K250 million annually in income tax to the Union government, according to regional government statistics.
U Myo Win Than, executive director of Grand Andaman Resort, said the previous administrations allowed the casinos to operate, in order to boost tourism.
“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 Kawthoung township, because other businesses in the area are not doing well,” he said.
“She never once mentioned that she would shut the casino down. I also think it would be unreasonable to shut the business down straight after it was bought by a local owner.” The resort was formerly owned by Thailand-based Union Farm Engineering Company, but changed into Myanmar hands in 2014.
The company received Myanmar Investment Commission approval for the project in July last year, and committed to an investment of US$12.14 million.
“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.
He said the resort employs more than 900 staff, while several other local companies rely on the casino for business. Victoria Entertainment Resort could not immediately be reached for comment.
A guest checks in at the Grand Andaman Resort.