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‘Affirmative no’: Malaysia PM Anwar Ibrahim rejects second casino in the country

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DOHA: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has said no to a second casino in the country, his latest denial on the matter following recent reports that the government was allegedly mulling over one.

“Affirmative no,” Mr Anwar said at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday (May 14), when asked if his administration would allow a second casino in the Southeast Asian nation.

The issue has been in the spotlight since last month, when Bloomberg reported that Malaysia was in early discussions with tycoons on opening a casino in Johor’s beleaguered Forest City property development.

The news was picked up by several Malaysian and foreign media outlets, including Singapore daily The Straits Times, which cited unnamed sources in reporting that the casino was among Malaysia’s proposals for the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (SEZ). 

Analysts interviewed by CNA have said the cards are stacked against such a scenario due to it being a hard sell politically and a risky gamble economically, as well as likely having a negative impact on certain bilateral ties.

Mr Anwar, who is also finance minister, said at the forum that Malaysia’s current focus areas are adequate to push future growth.

“Malaysia does not have to venture into the (second) casino business. We are focusing on digital transformation, energy transition (and) AI, and we believe these are (among the industries that are) adequate to push the country forward,” he said.

The prime minister had already denied late last month any plans to open a casino in Forest City, denouncing the claims as a lie. The businessmen mentioned in the news reports also came out to deny taking part in such a meeting.

Malaysian authorities have charged several people for making seditious remarks in relation to the casino report. On Monday (May 6), local media reported that Malaysian police recorded a statement from Bloomberg journalist Ram Anand over the article.

Malaysia has granted only one casino licence, which was issued to Genting in 1969. The group also has casino operations in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Singapore.

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