Thai authorities have been fighting illegal gambling for years. The pandemic has forced many governments, including Thailand’s, to reconsider their position on the whole issue. Tourism will take a long time to recover as a result of the pandemic. Japan’s integrated resorts with casinos are also influencing Thai politics. According to Alisa, Gaming Industry Expert at Thai Casino Center, “personally and professionally, I believe the Thai government will have to make changes in order to encourage gambling tourism to Thailand, rather than away from it.”
How big is Thailand’s gambling industry?
According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Center for Gambling Studies, 76.3% of Thailand’s 40.69 million population are active gamblers. According to the studies, 57% of the population gambled in 2019 alone. A major source of concern, however, was the estimated 733,000 younger unemployed gamblers. According to the report, approximately ฿10.2 billion was in circulation in the gambling industry. Football betting, underground lottery, and government lottery were the three largest sectors.
What has stood in the way of Legalization?
In the past, the government has faced public and political opposition to the idea of legalizing casinos, including from Nattapong Samphaokaew, the supervisor of the Youth Network Against Gambling. Nattapong previously advocated for a crackdown on both illegal gambling dens and police officers who accept bribes to abdicate their duties.
According to a NIDA Poll survey of 1,318 respondents, 46.51% of those polled oppose casino legalization. According to 21.25% of those polled, legalization would reduce external gambling while increasing revenue for the country. Most opponents claimed that legalization would increase crime, encourage more people to gamble, and worsen household debts, and family conflicts. Yet others argue that Buddhism does not support gambling and therefore should not be legalized.
The Bid for Casino Legalization in 2021
Thailand’s House of Representatives agreed on December 2 to conduct a study on the feasibility of legal gambling. The concept arose as a solution to the Covid-19 economic calamity caused by a drop in tourism and expenditure on pandemic-related damage. The study was given to Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate, who said he would form up to five sub-panels to investigate the matter within 90 days.
Why Casino Legalization Has a Better Chance This Time
Unlike previous attempts to legalize casinos, this one is unique in that both the government’s sitting and opposition sides agree that legalizing casinos is the way forward. Sangsit Piriyarangsan, chairperson of the Standing Committee on Poverty and Inequality Reduction, has been a long-time supporter of legalization. According to him, the findings of the NIDA survey do not reflect the views of the general public.
He considers MPs’ opinions to be the ultimate deciding factor because they are the people’s chosen representatives. He does agree, however, that people’s concerns must be addressed by enforcing strict regulations.
One of the measures he proposes is implementing different minimums for domestic and foreign gamblers. While tourists will only be required to show their passports, residents will be required to provide their annual income and age in order to prevent unfit low-income earners and youth from gambling.
Why is Legalization the preferable option?
One of the prominent factors favoring the legalization is Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-ocha’s government stability and King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s support of the idea. In 2021, PM Prayut revealed intentions to consider legalization as a recourse to the decline in tourism and economic damage caused by the pandemic.
According to statistics, legalization could create a market worth ฿200 billion in annual revenue. According to Sangsit, legalization would help the government generate an additional ฿50 to ฿60 billion in revenue by collecting corporate tax, VAT, and excise tax. He also suggests cross-border licensing as a method of increasing revenue. Sangsit also claims that casinos will have a positive impact on tourism and related businesses, as well as create more jobs.
Where Should the First Casinos be Established?
Bangkok was chosen as the most strategic location to launch the industry by the committee tasked with investigating the matter. One of its advantages is its close proximity to lodging facilities, as well as good rail, air, and road transport links. According to Sangsit, the city is connected by railway networks to the resort destinations of Pattaya and Hua Hin, which is also convenient for tourists due to its central location. The committee also recommends that casinos be built near immigration checkpoints.
The legalization of casinos in Thailand is closer than ever before, promising new opportunities for skilled gamblers and investors in related businesses. Thailand is learning from Singapore in order to avoid making the same mistakes as other countries. Furthermore, some Singapore investors have already hinted at entering Thailand’s market.
However, as word spreads, the market is likely to see a massive influx of scammers preying on uninformed gamblers. You can stay safe in the gambling world by betting on casinos that have been reviewed by independent parties in order to avoid losing money and to keep your personal information out of the hands of the wrong people.
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