A draft law legalising tourist casinos is on the verge of being approved in Kyrgyzstan, ending a ban on gambling that has been in place since 2012.
The Bill "On Gambling" has passed two readings in Jogorku Kenesh, the parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, and is now expected to be signed by the President.
It is assumed that gambling operations will open at large hotels on the shores of lake Issyk-Kul and in the capital of the country, Bishkek.
The initial version of the law only created a special zone for casinos in the Issyk-Kul region, but the position of lawmakers changed after President Sadyr Japarov called for the opening of casinos throughout the country.
Kyrgyz authorities hope to replenish the state budget with taxes and licence fees from the gaming industry and additional tourism.
The law proposes that the Cabinet of Ministers will determine licence fees and taxes.
However, according to the Prime Minister, Kyrgyzstanis will not be able to visit gambling establishments and this will be strictly controlled. Operators who violate this law will be subject to high fines and enforcement measures up to the withdrawal of a licence.
Since gambling was totally banned in 2012, Kyrgyz law enforcement officers have annually identified dozens of underground casinos operating under the guise of beauty salons, internet clubs and other businesses.
Some casinos are located in private houses and apartments, which make their owners practically invulnerable to the law.
Debates over re-legalisation have raged ever since the prohibition was introduced ten years ago.
The government of the republic said it was lifting the ban now because it believes it will create favourable conditions for reducing unemployment and will boost the construction of new hotels, restaurants and tourism infrastructure.