Following several discussions on significant changes being proposed in Myanmar in relation to the gambling landscape, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Myanmar parliament) finally enacted The Gambling Law (“GL”) on 7 May 2019.
The enactment of the GL heralds positive news for investors looking to invest in the “casino” business as the legal avenues for operating such establishments have finally been opened. The previous Gambling Law of 1986 placed a blanket ban on all forms of gambling across Myanmar. As per the GL, a “Casino” has been defined as “any location or building registered in line with the stipulations with approval from the Union Government where only foreigners shall be allowed to gamble.”
Section 23 of the GL further states that “the Union Government may screen and allow to establish and open Casinos in line with stipulations.” While the necessary stipulations such as foreign investment ratios, compliance requirements, capital requirements and required approvals/authorizations have not been specified in the GL, we are hopeful that subsequent notifications specifying operational rules for a “casino” will be released sooner rather than later. However, strict qualifications have been placed which restrict the entry of Myanmar nationals into a casino and bans gambling. The GL also fails to mention whether Myanmar citizens would be allowed to operate and invest in “casino” business or whether this too shall be restricted only to foreign investors.
The GL has placed prohibitions and restrictions on all other forms of gambling which do not have the backing of the Union Government. Accordingly, bans have been placed on the establishment and operation of a “Gambling-house” which has been defined as “any house, building, enclosure, compound, garden, room or vehicle” where gambling takes place without Union Government approval. The GL prohibits the public from all forms of solicitation or collection of stakes for gambling, gambling or being present in a Gambling-house, run and manage unlicensed lotteries or other games similar to lotteries and acquire financial benefits to provide aid in any manner to carry out such activities. Sweeping powers have been given to Township Administrators, Township Police-officers and Station Officers to conduct searches and seizures along with the powers to arrest offenders violating the GL without a warrant. Finally, the GL also lays down penalties which stretch from terms of imprisonment ranging from six months to five years along with prescribed fines of up to MMK 1 million for violations of its provisions.
The new GL has finally cleared the air surrounding the Myanmar gambling landscape. Casinos will be finally allowed to operate within the remit of the Union Government. However, necessary stipulations/rules and regulations will need to be set out for better clarity and purpose. We believe that the opening up of casinos will greatly benefit the economy of Myanmar and boost government revenue in more ways than one. However, considering the inexperience and deficiencies currently ingrained in Myanmar society, the government will need to have well regulated mechanisms and systems in place to govern casino and gambling activities within the Union.
Partner, Managing Director
Deputy Managing Director,
Head of Banking & Finance Practice
The information provided here is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from qualified legal counsel for all specific situations.