On May 13th 2015, it was reported in the Myanmar Times that the Singapore firm, Zochwell Group Pte Ltd is on the way to signing a contract for the development of a $1.2 billion US dollar project. This project will include a casino in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago. However a local official that was also quoted by this media said that they had no knowledge of the project.
On the Salon Island the land has already been put aside for commercial use. The Zochwell firm will have a lease that is for 50 years for the land. They will also be given the option to extend the contract twice for an additional 10 years.
Mr Chin the chief commercial officer for the Zochwell group, said that they will be signing the lease for the land and the build, operate and transfer terms in the next month with the chief minister. They are just waiting for the Attorney General’s office to approve the agreement and then they will need the approval of the Myanmar Investment Commission.
However, U Hlwan Moe, who is the assistant director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in Mergui said that he was not aware of the project and that they will need to get approval from his department.
In the Andaman Sea the Mergui Archipelago is a group of more than 800 islands. The region also shares a border with Thailand where gambling is illegal. Thais cross their border in great numbers every year to gamble where they are welcome.
At the end of 2014 the islands had five hotels and motels that offered 196 rooms according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism data.
The Salon Island project has a first phase that will include the development of a golf course, a marina and a hotel. The plan also features a casino, which has been approved in principal; it will still need the approval of the Myanmar Investment Commission.
There are currently four mainstream casinos operating in Myanmar. An untold number of illegal casinos may be operating deep in the jungle and near the borders. Myanmar shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand.
The first phase for the development could possibly begin by the end of 2015 according to Mr. Chin as long as the project gets the required approvals from the local authorities.
He further added that they are in the process of choosing operators, contractors and investors. The island will be managed in the same fashion that the Sentosa Development Corp manages the Sentosa Island in Singapore. The idea then is to lease it from the government, divide it and then sub lease these sections to independent investors.
In 2014, according to the data from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Myanmar hosted more than 3.08 million tourists and that the expenditure from tourists was at $1.79 billion US dollars.