Casino Royale...or some such, in Mong La, Shan State, Burma

Back in February 2005, the first time I travelled to Mong La in the far eastern Shan State, its days as a major gambling centre had just ended. The hulking shapes of the casinos dotted around town still gave some indication of the money and people that once flowed through its gambling dens. Back then, the Chinese government had just started its crackdown on the Burmese casino scene.

In an article titled “Gambling on Lawlessness“, The Irrawaddy‘s William Boot has provided an up-to-date account on the Burmese casinos that try to draw punters from neighbouring countries. Current efforts by Thai and Chinese authorities to discourage their citizens from cross-border flutters are examined in helpful detail.

My favourite part of the article – which echoes previous analysis of burgeoning Burma-based online gambling outfits – discusses the enterprising tactics of Sai Linn, an infamous Shan-Chinese businessman and opium warlord, who has tried to keep the gambling profits flowing even after the Chinese government crackdown. Boot writes:

He has set up simple jungle casinos 16 miles from the border–empty except for mobile phone-equipped croupiers and a few savvy Web technicians. Cameras trained on the baccarat and blackjack tables relay video images onto Internet web sites and allow gamblers to bet online. Unfortunately for Sai Linn, this has proved so successful since March that the Chinese authorities intervened again and cut the Internet link in September. The pressure on entrepreneurial Sai Linn, also known as Lin Mingxian, is unlikely to put him out of business for a long time.