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Myanmar's not-so-underground casinos in line for legalization

Formally lifting ban would give officials a bargaining chip with rebels

Myanmar sees legal casinos as a ticket to higher tax revenue. (Photo by Yuichiro Takagi)

MYAWADDY, Myanmar -- Casinos are banned in Myanmar, but you would not know that by looking at the ones in the country's border areas. In the eastern town of Myawaddy, across a river from Thailand, the gaming houses light up the night like their counterparts in Macau or Las Vegas, though they are smaller. Little effort is made to conceal what goes on inside.

The ban might not be an issue much longer, in any case. The government is considering legalization as a way to attract more tourists from Thailand, China and elsewhere. This would bring in much-needed tax revenue and provide a bargaining chip for dealing with armed ethnic minority groups, some of which are apparently involved in the gambling trade. 

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