intan Deputy Regent Mastur Taher said that a regional regulation designed to legalize gambling in Bintan had been handed over to the Bintan Legislative Council in September 2007. "It is up to the Bintan regency legislature to endorse the bill," he said.
Malaysian Landmarks Bhd., backed by Asian largest gambling company, hopes to build Indonesia’s first legalized casinos in a us$ 3.1 billion resort project to compete with Las Vegas Sands Corp. in Singapore.
"The objective is to develop a new destination for Indonesia," Chief Operating Officer Lim Boon Soon said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur. The gaming element "will accelerate the whole integrated development in Bintan," according to Bloomberg.
The planned casinos in Bintan will compete with gaming resorts that Las Vegas Sands and Genting Bhd., Landmarks’s biggest shareholder, are racing to build in Singapore, which is a 55-minute ferry ride away. Mastur said local authorities feared the casino center would have an adverse effect on local moral standards.
The 23,000 hectares special resort was inaugurated in 1996 to attract foreign tourists, especially from Southeast Asian countries and has so far attracted seven investors, including Banyan Tree, Bintan Lagoon and Club Med Ria.
Foreign visitors to the resort increased from 330,000 in 2006 to 370,000 in 2007 and the number is expected to double in the coming years. The secretary of the regency legislature’s special committee handling the development, Timbul Sianturi, said the regency legislative council was still collecting information and consulting with the central government and the local people on the resort’s fate.
"The special integrated tourist resort bill, which allows electronic and non-electronic sport games (or gambling), has raised a wide public controversy, and that is why we are still awaiting considerations from the central government and the public," he said.
Timbul, a councillor of the Golkar Party, said the four-member faction of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) opposed the bill, while 21 other councillors of Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the United Development Party (PPP) were still taking a "wait and see" stance.
He said it was time for Indonesia to take financial advantage of competition between Malaysia and Singapore in the gambling business, which attracts many Indonesians, especially to the Genting Highlands gambling district in Malaysia.
Chief spokesman for the Riau Islands provincial government Irmansyah said the governor and the Bintan regent had met with the director general of regional development affairs at the Home Ministry to discuss the bill but had yet to reach a decision.
The local chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Association has decried the bill, sparking similar strong support from locals. "We support development, but not gambling. It will likely generate jobs but will damage local morality," he said.