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July 31, 2009

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian Speaks Out Against the Planned Expansion of Casino Gambling in Armenia

Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Director Richard Giragosian joined the head of the “Reform” NGO Karine Hakobyan at a press conference at the “Hayatsk” press club on July 31 to speak out against the planned expansion of casino gambling in Armenia. 

In an attempt to raise awareness of a new draft law that aims to expand the development of casino gambling by moving existing gambling facilities from the Armenian capital Yerevan to several resort areas, Giragosian and Hakobyan presented their concerns over several aspects of the new legislation.

ACNIS Director Giragosian focused on three specific negative implications from the passage or implementation of the new law.  First, he addressed the impact of the draft law’s stated goal to relocate casinos and build new gambling facilities in several target areas of Armenia, including the resort towns of Tsakhadzor and Jermuk, as well as within the Yerevan international airport.  Giragosian stressed that “the pristine landscape and unique environment of Tsakhadzor and Jermuk would be irrevocably damaged by the construction of gambling establishments, while also doing nothing to alleviate unemployment or insufficient economic opportunity in those areas.”  He also explained that any new jobs resulting from the opening of the new casinos were “the wrong kind of jobs, contributing little for the strategic development of Armenia.”

The second negative aspect of the planned expansion of casino gambling stems from “the security implications of the plan” Giragosian explained, pointing to “the Armenian government’s stated goal of transforming Armenia into a new regional center for gambling.”  Giragosian noted that “with gambling banned in both Iran and Turkey, the plan seems intent on attracting an influx of gamblers from neighboring countries.”  He further stated that “such a focus on developing gambling-related tourism reflected a mistaken policy priority, encouraging greater corruption and even criminal activity, to the obvious detriment of the development and promotion of more positive healthier pursuits such as eco-tourism, for example.”  And given the already strained and limited resources for investment by the Armenian state, Giragosian suggested that “the priority for developing and expanding the gambling industry was a threat to more pressing needs for greater investment in science, education, social welfare and job creation.”

Giragosian then concluded by saying that the issue also revealed a third important deficiency, defined by “the lack of discussion or debate of the proposed legislation within the parliament and among society as a whole.”  In terms of public policy and the process of decision-making, he added, “this issue reveals the much larger problem of a lack of national debate or even awareness of important new laws and state decisions that prevent the proper development of the country and adversely impacts the lives of the citizens.”

For her part, Hakobyan criticized the plan for its potential for “inflicting extensive damage on the environment and also warned of the negative effect such a move would have on Armenian culture.”  Both speakers also called on the Armenian government to reconsider its draft plan and to invite an open debate on the controversial draft law.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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Armenian version