THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY

A 60-member Extraordinary Parliamentary Committee has been set up and a chairperson appointed after parliamentarians voted 310 to nine to look into a proposal that would allow legalised casinos to be set up in the country. The idea is to attract more tourists to the country after the Covid pandemic has wreaked havoc on the tourism industry.

“The Prime Minister and the government did not provide any policy or any special instruction on the issue since this is a matter for the legislative branch,” said Deputy Transport Minister, Dr Atirat Ratanasate, who was selected to lead the Committee which includes members of the opposition and the coalition. 

THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY

“The matter must be studied in all aspects, including the pros and cons, impacts from abroad, and impacts from neighboring countries“, Dr Atirat says, “the aim is for the study to be done within 90 days as assigned.”.

Apart from the state lottery and horse racing, all other gambling activities are illegal in Thailand.  Such a proposal has been made by many governments before but nothing ever came to fruition.  In the wake of the Covid pandemic and damage to the Thai economy, maybe now is the time.

Casino advocates say that these entertainment venues will create jobs and revenue for the government.

Chada Thaised, Bhumjaithai Party MP for Uthai Thani, and a member of the latest casino committee, said that the country urgently needs to boost its revenue in Covid’s wake.  Chada says “if we are going to have it, [casinos] we must do it soon, this is the right time to make it happen.” 

He added that casinos should be built at airports to provide services for tourists while they are waiting for their planes.  A comprehensive entertainment venue is the proposal of both Government MPs and the opposition.  One such model has already been forwarded to the casino committee advocating for a Hua Hin location.  This proposes a Formula One racetrack, theme Parks as well as hotels and shopping complexes; making an airport venue an unlikely site.

THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY

Advocates for Hua Hin, include Mr Udorn Olsson, a prominent Hua Hin business identity, say an Entertainment Complex should be outside the city municipal area, due to the royal heritage and associated sensitivities.  More favored options include the ​​Hin Lek Fai, Thap Tai, Nong Phlap or Huai Sat Yai Subdistricts. 

Mr Olsson is not a Member of Parliament but an advisor to the Deputy Transport Minister, now the Chairperson of the Extraordinary Committee.

THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY

One interesting member of the Committee is MP Mr. Chatchawan Kong-udom, leader of the Thai Local Power Party; described as a former gambling mogul.  He says that he has been retired from this type of business for more than 30 years, but still has information from people involved in various gambling businesses.

He supports the establishment of a legal casino in the form Entertainment Complex which will generate huge income for the country.  “We can’t stop people from gambling, people take money to play in different countries.  Around our borders, there are many casinos happening., wouldn’t it be better to stay in Thailand?  The state could use the tax money collected from gambling to help with education and help farmers who are facing disasters”

THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY
Malaysia’s Genting Highlands Casino

He favours casinos being opened in four Thailand regions, one per region, where he believes “there could be revenue of about 1 billion per month per casino, where land will skyrocket, shops will benefit, local workers benefit from having to travel to Bangkok to find work. or go out to work in foreign countries and people will have high income jobs”.  Bangkok is not favoured as an entertainment complex which requires a large land area, which in Bangkok is very rare.

Associate Professor Dr. Sangsit Piriyarangsan, Chair of the Senate Poverty and Inequality Reduction Committee is perhaps an unlikely supporter of to the proposal in principle.

“Personally, I think that if there is no legal casino opening, Thai people will go out to gamble in their neighbor’s casino.   Money will leak out of the country and at the same time, illegal gambling will continue to exist.

The only people that benefit are the owner of the casino and government officials who collect a tribute from gambling.  But if the state allows the casino to open, you have to do it for the people to get the most benefit.”

THAILAND READY TO RECONSIDER LEGAL CASINOS – WHAT THE ADVOCATES SAY
The Singapore Marina Bay Sands Casino

Dr Sangit says “if Thailand opens a casino legally, it should adhere to the Singapore model, which is considered the best in the world.  Singapore opens casinos to serve people as part of a complex which has a comprehensive conference centre.  There are shopping malls and resorts in the same area to attract a large number of tourists from around the world.”


“Singapore is a small country, but it is the largest international convention centre in the world.  Singapore uses casinos as part of its MICE industry or for international conferences.  Thailand has more potential than Singapore in every aspect, including natural attractions and ancient sites with tourist attractions that show culture and traditions.  We have a vast area to build a complex that can be bigger than Singapore.  Think about how huge the money that comes in,” Dr. Sangsit said.