Two casi­nos in Taninthariyi un­der gov­ern­ment scru­tiny

The Myanmar Times - - Business - SU PHYO WIN su­phy­owin@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

A guest checks in at the Grand An­daman Re­sort.

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