Kyrgyzstan had earlier rolled out a blanket ban on the gambling industry but is once again exploring the possibility of reintroducing gambling in the country albeit only for foreign nationals this time around. A proposal by the Ministry of Economy of Kyrgyzstan detailing the plan has been put up on its website, opening it up for public debate.
The country had banned all forms of gambling in 2012 despite the industry being a major source of employment and a significant income generator for the government in the form of gambling tax revenues. Kyrgyzstan eventually took the decision to ban the gambling industry after there were numerous reports of gambling contributing to social problems in the country.
Kyrgyzstan would later go on to ban all forms of sport betting and bookmakers in 2015. The proposition to amend the law has been put forth in context of opening a specialized international trade and exhibition center near the country’s major airport, Manas International which is about 26 kilometres from the capital city of Bishkek. The complex being proposed is planned as a business venue as well as an entertainment and gambling complex with the intention of improving investment and tourism in the country.
Kyrgyzstan banned legalized gambling but did not have sufficient measures in place to monitor and root out the number of illegal gambling establishments that started operating in the country. The underground gambling industry in Kyrgyzstan took advantage of the vacuum created by the gambling ban and has flourished with every passing month.
Kyrgyzstan has acknowledged that its gambling ban hasn’t worked the way it was supposed to work as the gambling industry is now controlled by the underworld. The ban has also resulted in heavy revenues losses. The proposal states that the state exchequer is losing $6.59 million in tax revenues every year due to the gambling ban.
In a statement, the Ministry stated
In adopting the law, we were guided by good intentions to protect vulnerable people, who become addicted to gambling. However, the ban on gambling activities has led not to its stoppage, but to its movement into the shadows.
The new scheme proposed appears to be another attempt by the Kyrgyzstan government to reverse these losses at least partially. According to the new plan, the complex will have three hotels, shops, exhibition and conference halls and other commercial complexes apart from the gambling complex. It is expected to attract investments to the tune of $200 million.
The proposal has made it clear that safeguards will built in to avoid any dilution to the law regarding locals gambling. It proposes to locate the gambling complex in an enclosed area tightly controlled by the relevant executive body so as to ensure no local citizens can enter the facility to engage in gambling activities.