Ahmad Junaidi and Annastashya Emmanuelle, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Amid heated debate on gambling localization in the Thousand Islands regency, President Megawati Soekarnoputri's husband Taufik Kiemas, Islands regent K. Abdul Kadir and businessman Tommy Winata recently met at the latter's island.
Kadir acknowledged on Wednesday that he had met the First Gentleman and Tommy at West Pantara island last Saturday evening in his official capacity.
""Pak Taufik and his family, without Ibu Mega, were on vacation. There was no talk about gambling,"" the regent told reporters at his office in Sunter, North Jakarta, on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, sources at the State Palace told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that Taufik Kiemas went to the Thousand Islands on Saturday, along with his daughter, Puan Maharani, and her children.
Another source said that at the location Taufik also met with members of House Commission IV on transportation and infrastructure affairs.
Tommy Winata, who has three islands, namely West Pantara, East Pantara and Sebaru Kecil, reportedly manages several large casinos in Jakarta.
However, Abdul Kadir denied that Tommy, who is also the owner of Bank Artha Graha, was interested in investing in gambling in the island regency.
Kadir stated that several businessmen with gambling interests in Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles and Macau had approached him recently.
""They are all Jakarta people who run gambling businesses in those cities,"" he claimed.
He said one of the investors predicted that the gambling business could contribute Rp 1.5 trillion (US$150 million) to Rp 1.8 trillion annually to the city's coffers.
He revealed that he had met the manager of Sepa island on Wednesday, who informed him that an investor from the Netherlands was also interested in running a casino on the island.
However, only the Bina Dana Sosial Foundation had officially proposed recently to run a casino on the islands, Kadir said.
""The foundation has experience in running a sports lottery in recent years. It promised to coordinate casinos in Jakarta to move to the islands,"" he said.
The regency earlier offered 36 empty islands in North Kepulauan Seribu district to accommodate the casinos as they are located far from the mainland.
Kadir considered that of the islands, 30-hectare Sebaru Besar was the ideal location for a casino.
""It is the second-largest island in the regency and is located 70 kilometers from the mainland,"" he said.
Asked that the localization of gambling would trigger crime, he said the gamblers would not be required to bring cash, as in the Genting Highlands in Malaysia. They would have to deposit money in Jakarta.
He admitted that the opening of casinos was still far off and depended on the city administration in the current era of regional autonomy.
According to Article 303 of the Criminal Code, gambling is prohibited unless it is permitted by the authorities. A presidential decree bans gambling across the country.