Batam lures tourists with gambling opportunities

Batam in Indonesia is luring tourists with its gambling stations that often operate secretively.

The re-opening of some gambling dens in region, which were closed following protests by Islamic clerics, is a big draw with tourists from Singapore and Malaysia. Figures show that increasing numbers of Singaporeans and Malaysians have been spending time during weekends in Batam, Riau Islands, over the last few months. Operators in the region have reopened gambling and gaming sites on the island after they were closed down some time back.

Even though local authorities have denied that they have provided licenses for the gambling dens, records indicate that officials have recently issued 14 licenses for recreation and gaming facilities. The move was in response to the urgent needs to revive tourism on the island, where tourism is a big revenue earner.

Yusfa Hendri, head of the Batam municipal tourism office, said, ‘An increasing number of foreign tourists have been gradually reviving the island’s service industry such as hotels, restaurants and transportation, and indirectly generating more job opportunities on the island.’

He denied that gaming centres that were offered licenses recently were gambling centres. He said that his office had received 30 applications for recreation and gaming centre licenses. The office had issued 30 licenses.

The gambling dens provide gambling machines that have particularly attracted tourists from neighbouring countries where such facilities are restricted. The island has also been the cause of increasing tourism to adjacent islands such as Bintan and Tanjungpinang. The local police shut down gaming centres in Batam in November 2011.

Yusfa said that the tourism office would continue to offer programmes to encourage recreation to entice foreigners to visit the island.