Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Businesspeople support plan on gambling resort

JAKARTA (JP): Businessmen and residents of the Seribu Islands are very hopeful that the Jakarta Administration can realize its plan to establish a gambling resort on one of the islands as the venture could provide annual revenues of some Rp 4 trillion, a sum similar to the current city budget.

Speaking to The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a seminar on the islands here on Tuesday, chairman of the Association of Marine Tourism Businessmen in Seribu Islands (Perwita Pusri), Djafar Tirtosentono, and a senior leader in the Islands, Syahrudin, said the business would improve the welfare of the islanders and lead to further development of the islands as well.

Therefore, the city administration should stop procrastinating over the plan. They said the plan could already have been realized since Governor Sutiyoso has given written approval for the proposal.

"Together with the head of the City Tourism Agency, I have calculated the (possible) profits of these kinds of (entertainment) resorts. From 500 to 1,000 gamblers, we could collect around Rp 3 trillion to Rp 4 trillion per year from the proposed 50 percent tax," Djafar said.

"Can you imagine what we could do with that money? We could really improve the welfare of the people, develop the islands and even restore the ruined ones," Djafar said.

He contended that the administration could follow the Malaysian government, which has been running a gambling resort in the Genting Highlands for years, by providing entertainment facilities for the families of the gamblers.

"We can utilize one of the uninhabited islands and develop it as a totally new resort because most of the gamblers would stay with their families for a week," he added.

Gambling was once legal in Jakarta and earned huge income from it during the governorship of Ali Sadikin, who governed the capital from 1966 until 1977.

During his tenure, the Hailai gambling center in North Jakarta and Pulo Mas Horse Track were built.

However, in 1973 the central government issued Law No. 22/1973 followed by Law No. 7/1974 restricting locals from gambling in casinos in the country.

Until late 1980, some gambling centers were still open to foreigners, such as the Jakarta Theater and the Hailai facility in Ancol.

Several councillors from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) have given their support to the latest proposal, saying that gambling has become a fact of life so it is fair to provide a separate place for it.

Syahruddin, the senior resident of the islands, shared Djafar's idea, saying that what is important for the islanders is improvement of their welfare, which seems to be unimportant to the city administration.

"For the local people, the establishment of tourism facilities in the islands would help improve their welfare. We do not mind having a sports arena, resort, factory or legal gambling center as long as it can help us," Syahrudin said.

Neither Syahrudin nor Djafar named the island proposed for the gambling resort. (dja)