Nima Wangdi 

Bhutan’s Penal Code states that a person shall be guilty of the offence of gambling if he or she stakes or wagers something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the defendant’s control or influence upon an agreement or understanding that the defendant will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.

Simply put, gambling is illegal.

However, cases of gambling in the country are increasing. This, many say, is probably because of too light a penalty.

Nangsi Lyonpo (Home Minister) Ugyen Dorji submitted to the National Assembly that gambling as described in the Penal Code of Bhutan is a crime.

The offence, however, is a petty misdemeanour, which ranges from a one-month to one-year prison term.

Lyonpo urged the House to revise the law for gambling and make it harsher.

“The gambling activities once organised during the festivals in the past are now played online with changes over time. We need to include them in the law and make it clearer,” Lyonpo said.

Jomotsangkha-Martshala member, Norbu Wangzom, said that in Thimphu, people play Parala (dice) and Marriage (card) games in rented houses. People also play Teer, Poker, and other online games.

“This leads to heavy borrowing and family problems, victimising women the most,” she said, many fleeing the country when they are not able to repay the loans.

She asked the minister whether the ministry has a policy or law to curtail this problem.

“The law enforcers have to be strict and serious,” she said.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that gambling posed a serious problem in the country.

“There is a Kasho from the Third Druk Gyalpo commanding an end to gambling businesses in the country,” he said. “It is disheartening to see the problem still existing.”

Police apprehended 12 gambling cases and penalised 27 individuals this year alone, he said.

Lyonpo said that the people now gamble on their mobile phones and police can’t apprehend them.

“As a responsible Bhutanese citizen, every one of us should report any crime you come across. The police will not leave any case unattended. The Department of Law and Order has also sent out notifications on gambling as a crime,” Lyonpo said.