Indonesia considers building its first casino on island near wealthy Singapore

Gambling is prohibited in Islam. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, with nearly 90 percent of its 235 million people being followers of the Islamic faith.

Other plans to build casinos in Indonesia have faltered due to vocal opposition from Islamic activists. It remains to be seen whether Bintan island’s local government will be able to push the plan through. „We are aware of the controversy,“ Bintan district’s deputy chief Mastur Taher said.

He estimated that the casino could raise the island’s annual income tenfold to USD 132 million. He said that only foreign tourists and non-Muslims would be allowed into the casino, which is envisaged to be part of a 2,000 hectare tourist development.

Bintan is already popular with tourists, most of whom make the hourlong ferry ride from Singapore. Local lawmaker Timbul Sianturi said Bintan’s government has submitted a draft bylaw to the district’s legislature that would legalize gambling at the resort, bypassing national regulations that ban the activity in the country. It was not clear when lawmakers would debate the issue.

Neighboring Malaysia, which is also mostly Muslim, allows casino gambling in a resort area that attracted 18.5 million people last year. The Genting Highlands also has a theme park and five hotels, and Malaysian Muslims are not allowed to enter its casinos.