Bangladesh proposes foreigner-only casinos amid crackdown

27 September 2019

Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry Secretary Mohibul Haque has said the country could introduce foreigner-only gambling zones after the country launched a major crackdown on illegal casinos.

With gambling illegal in Bangladesh, the Rapid Action Battalion raided three clubs and arrested 50 suspected gamblers earlier this week, prompting Haque to suggest a solution to allow foreigners, but not Bangladeshi citizens, to gamble.

The proposed casinos would be located in Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and Cox’s Bazar, all located in the South of the country, a popular region for tourists.

Haque made the statement in favour of foreigner-only casinos, in which customers must show a non-Bangladeshi passport to enter, at a press conference on Tuesday in advance of World Tourism Day. He cited Malaysia as an example of an Islamic country that has allowed gambling for tourists but not for its own citizens.

"I believe if we create an exclusive zone for the foreign tourists, we can provide similar facilities available in other Muslim countries," he said. "I don't see a problem with that."

"I don't disagree with the government's drive [to crack down on illegal casinos]" Haque added. "All I want to say is that the proposed casinos will cater only to foreigners."

However, the move has drawn major criticism as Supreme Court lawyer Eunus Ali Akond issued a legal notice to Haque and others involved in the casino business, arguing that the foreigner-only casino concept would violate Article 18(2) of the Constitution and the Public Gambling Act, 1867 and asking Haque and others to explain why legal action should not be taken against them.

The notice was also sent to MP Rashed Khan Menon, the chairman of the Youngmen’s Club, one of the clubs raided, claiming that Menon should be held responsible for the gambling activities discovered at the club.