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Can Bali Say 'No' to Casinos?

5 Will Get You 10 That Bali Will Thwart Current Efforts to Establish a Casino in Bali.

(11/12/2007) Highly controversial plans to open a casino in Bali at the location of the former Bali Cliff Resort surfaced recently with reports in the local press that local law enforcement officials and lawmakers were reportedly "studying" such a plan.

According the Radar Bali, Nengah Netra, a Balinese living in Ungasan, not far from the Bali Cliff Resort, says he has been appointed to establish an integrated international entertainment business in Bali by a local company PT. Lumba Indocas Jaya. The Company, which reportedly holds a "principal agreement" issued by the former Regent of Bandung in 2001, sought to form a cooperative venture with the Bali Cliff Resort that would offer electronic games of bridge, baccarat, black jack, poker, slot machines, roulette, keno and Internet Sports games in Bali.

Netra told Radar Bali that because these gaming amusements would be offered in a members only night club atmosphere with a focus on "the arts," such activities should not be considered gambling.

The Plot Thickens

Netra was reportedly unable to organize the special operating permits and other licenses needed to open the integrated international entertainment center causing the original "principal permission" to expire in June 2004. According to Radar Bali, Rp. 2 billion (US$217,000) was spent in processing fees and non-receipted payments to local officials in an effort to obtain the required permits to open the facility.

Netra also claims that he reached an agreement with a Vice-Regent of Badung Regency in August 2007 to sell his principal permissions together with of supporting alleged letters of recommendation from the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the Minister of Fisheries, the Minister of Culture and Tourism and the Tax Office for Rp. 2 billion.

Although Netra does not have a signed agreement with the Vice-Regent for the alleged transfer of the project, he has nonetheless made a formal complaint with the Bali Police claiming damages in connection with the failure of the Vice-Regent to pay up.

The Vice-Regent, Ketut Sudikerta, has consistently denied his involvement in any such transaction and subsequent investigations by the police have thus far absolved Sudikerta of any wrongdoing. Moreover, Bali's Chief of Police recently praised and thanked Badung's Administrators for upholding the law and not granting permits for the building of a casino in Bali.

Just Say "No" to Casinos!

Press coverage of the involved dealings surrounding efforts to build a casino in south Bali has awoken a renewed round of widespread condemnation from local community leaders.

Bali's Tourism Authority Chief, Gede Nurjaya, has warned investors not to "play around" with permits by quietly misusing permits to convert hotels into casinos. Saying casinos are against both national law and the basic spiritual nature of Bali, Nurjaya warned that those trying to outwit the laws against gambling should be reading to receive all the legal and spiritual consequences of such actions.

Ray Suryawijaya, the Vice-Chairman of the Bali Chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) told the Bali Post that casino operations in Bali cannot be tolerated, particularly in close proximity to Bali's sacred temple of Uluwatu.

A senior lecturer in tourism in Bali, Gde Wijana, urged all involved to think "a thousand times" before establishing casinos in Bali which he views as a complete affront to Bali's commitment to develop cultural and spiritual tourism. Saying he could see no positive contribution a casino would bring to the people of Bali, Wijana questioned how police would justify their strong actions against cockfights and small-scale number rackets in Bali if a large-scale gambling operation were allowed to operate freely on the Island.

I Gusti Bagus Yudhara, the former Chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA) said the fight against casinos in Bali must become a "do or die proposition" ("harga mati") insisting there must be no compromise with those trying to establish a gambling industry on the Island.

Bali Police Chief Inspector General Paulus Purwoko has said that his department has no interest in "studying" the feasibility of casino operations in Bali, as the law is very clear on the subject: gambling is not allowed under Indonesian law.

Recalling the shutdown by police of a gambling center replete with an entire range of illegal gambling paraphernalia on the top floor of Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel in July 2005, local community leaders are urging the police to sweep the remote and "closed" Bali Cliff Resort site to ensure no illegal gambling activities are taking place at the location.