Protesters rally against legalizing casinos in Osh on May 30.
BISHKEK -- Dozens of people have gathered in Kyrgyzstan to protest against a move initiated by President Sadyr Japarov to reopen casinos that were banned a decade ago.
The protesters gathered in Bishkek's Gorky Park on June 24 to urge Japarov to veto a bill allowing casinos across the country for foreigners of at least 21 years of age only after it was approved by lawmakers two days earlier.
"We intend to turn to the Constitutional Court and demand it finds the bill against the constitution," Akjoltoi Tukunov, one of the protesters, said during the rally.
The protesters said the bill was approved without proper public discussion and therefore should be withdrawn.
They also raised concerns that even though casinos will be open to foreigners only, Kyrgyz citizens will end up being clients as well.
A similar protest was held in the country's second-largest city, Osh.
Lawmakers approved the bill on June 22 after voting was disrupted four times due to the refusal of many lawmakers to take part in the proceedings.
Casinos were officially banned in Kyrgyzstan in 2012. Since then, police have uncovered numerous underground casinos in Bishkek, Osh, and other towns and cities.
In April 2021, Japarov initiated the idea to legalize casinos to help tackle the economic hardships the Central Asian country has faced for decades.