Bintan casino not scrapped

A casino a mere 50-minute ferry ride from Singapore may still become a reality.

Two months after Bintan officials said that plans to build a casino have been scrapped, island regent Ansar Ahmad said otherwise.

The proposal, from Malaysian developer Landmarks last October, was submitted to the Jakarta government for approval early this year.

If approved, the casino will be the first to host legalised gaming in Indonesia.

‚The plan is still being debated between the local Bintan and Jakarta central governments,‘ Mr Ansar said at the sidelines of a ground-breaking ceremony of Bintan’s latest development, the 1,300ha Lagoi Bay early last month.

Asked why the Bintan urban-planning authorities had said in April that the request was killed ‚a long time ago‘, he said the confusion could have arisen from differences in opinion between the local and central governments.

The involvement of many government departments further complicated the issue.

‚Under Indonesian law, gambling is prohibited, unless approved by the government. There was some confusion whether the approval is by the local or central government,‘ he said in Bahasa Indonesia.

‚For us, as long as the central government approves the plan, we will carry it out.‘

Certain quarters, such as the religious department, are not keen on the casino plan, he said, adding: ‚We will have to make the community understand that access is limited to foreigners and selected people, and there will be barriers such as high entrance fees. Then maybe they will be more receptive.‘

It is not known when a decision is expected but the central government will need time to study the proposal and collect public feedback, he said.

Mr Ansar stressed that the casino is only a small part of the bigger plan, which is the USD 3.1-billion (SGD 4.2-billion) integrated resort built by Landmarks, boasting high-class villas and designer boutiques.

Landmarks‘ biggest shareholder is the Genting group, which is also building one of the two Singapore casinos.

The 338ha Treasure Bay Bintan resort, where the proposed casino will be based, is one of two major developments taking place on Bintan. The other is the Lagoi Bay development which launched its land sales last year.

Las Vegas-based gaming analyst Jonathan Galaviz said even if Bintan has a casino within an integrated resort, it would not have an adverse impact on Singapore since the Republic is still ‚a necessary travel gateway via ferry service‘ to Bintan.

Singapore’s status as an air hub cannot be easily replaced so it will continue to be an important transit point for tourists who want to head to Bintan, he said.