Myanmar Considers Legalization

Myanmar’s new civilian rulers are pushing foreign tourism to help the Southeast Asian nation’s development economically, and casinos are now seen as an important tool in that effort. A bill authorizing foreigners-only venues in hotels is under review in parliament.

The government of Myanmar has submitted a package of new regulations to the parliament that includes the legalization of foreigners-only casinos in hotels.

The more liberal approach has been spurred by the Southeast Asian nation’s return to civilian rule in 2011, which has seen a lifting of international economic sanctions imposed during the years of military dictatorship and is boosting growth in foreign investment and tourism.

The potential for casinos to assist in these efforts was outlined in a tourism master plan published last year that set a goal of 7 million visitor arrivals a year by 2020.

The reforms also aim at modernizing the legal state-run Aung Bar Lay lottery, which sells around 30 million tickets for its monthly draws and contributes the equivalent of US$2 million a month to public revenues.

It is estimated that around 70 percent of the adult population in this country of 51 million gamble regularly in underground markets that offer everything from English Premier League football betting to Thai lotteries to games based on the Thailand Stock Exchange.

However, casinos are not expected to win easy approval and advocates are counting on support from President Thein Sein.