The Myanmar government is planning to legalize casino gambling in May when the nation’s new 2018 Gambling Law is set to take effect. The legalization of gambling is part of a plan by the government to boost the tourism industry and attract foreign investors.
Select hotels In Yangon and Mandalay will be able to add casino operations to their business operations under the new law. Casinos are currently illegal in Myanmar, but there are several operational gambling venues in border areas as well as some of the country’s remote islands, including in the self-administered zones of Kokang and Wa.
According to Myat Nyarna Soe, Secretary of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, who helped draft the new legislation, the government decided that it couldn't continue to ignore illegal casinos in the border areas, or the fact that gambling operations in neighboring countries were successful in generating new tourism and tax revenues for those countries.
According to media reports, Myanmar’s President, U Win Myint, has recommended the proposed amendments to the country’s Gambling Law from 1986 and it is expected that the parliament will approve the legislation in mid-April.
Myanmar began to study and then plan for the legalization of casino gambling in 2017 when the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MHT) discussed its proposal with hotels that are popular with international tourists. To ensure that the government be fully involved and supportive of its proposals, the MHT asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry for Union Government Office to be involved in the drafting of the final legislation that was submitted to the parliament.
The new law has several goals, to increase international tourism, to curb unregulated gambling and to create a new source of tax revenue for the government. Related to the existing casinos in self-administered zones, the government hasn’t decided whether the new rules and regulations will apply to them.
While Myanmar citizens will be able to operate casinos and to be employed at them, it will still be illegal for them to gamble at the new casinos although many gaming and hotel experts believe that the government will amend the law three to five years later to allow local citizens to also gamble. In the meantime, hotel and casino operators who allow Myanmar citizens to gamble will be subject to fines and will be forced to stop their operations.