Myanmar gambling dens face government crackdown

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Myanmar gambling dens are facing a government crackdown as tales of ‘innocents’ racking up huge losses on popular arcade-style gambling machines run rampant.

The previous Union Solidarity Development Party-led government oversaw the licensing of thirty-four “games centres” to provide light entertainment for Yangon’s growing population.

Game centres have been charged with moving well beyond their intended purpose, however. Member of Parliament U Nay Phone Latt, and Myanmar gambling critic, says the gambling “harms social life.”

According to the privately owned newspaper, the Myanmar Times, police will soon be inspecting coin gaming stations throughout the capital. Although gambling is hugely popular, as in gambling mad China the activity remains illegal.

“The government allows the game stations for children, but the game shops are letting their customers gamble,” Regional Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Tin Aung Tun told the regional hluttaw. “That could be a crime.”

Game centre operators are finding it easy to exploit The Myanmar gambling craze, however. Machines that allow gambling are turned off and hidden when inspectors arrive. Once the inspection is over, they are switched back on and gambling continues.

Other game centre owners are alleged to pay bribe to police and local authorities. Reports indicate between 10,000 and 100,000 kyats every month is the going rate.

A fish catching group video game, known locally as the “Shark Game,” is one of the main culprits. According to one parliamentarian, a Shark Game machine in a game center in AKK Shopping Mall has been tempting students to gamble when they should be at school.

Another MP, U Yan Shin, said, “Young people have been ruined by the fishing games. A lot of money has been lost playing this game. The government should inspect effectively.”

Colonel Tin Aung Tun, speaking from a country where the military is still widely influential, encouraged citizens to report suspicious game centres. “If the township police force and administrator fail to arrest them, please inform me,” he said. “I will personally instruct them to make arrests immediately and we will take action against the owners of the game stations.”

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