The long-standing prohibition on casino gambling in Thailand could soon be a thing of the past as the nation of some 69 million people looks to rebuild its economy by becoming a high-end luxury destination for affluent travelers.
The Asian country’s parliament recently passed a measure with no objections that is to create an official committee tasked with investigating potential reforms to the Gambling Act of 1935, which currently bans land-based casinos while limiting sports betting to horse racing and government-sanctioned lotteries.
This 60-strong committee is set to examine Thailand’s existing policies on gambling and evaluate whether to allow local entertainment complexes to feature casinos. The government of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is known to be interested in boosting the nation’s economy through tourism and earlier suggested that such liberalized venues could raise as much as $3 billion a year via an envisioned 30% tax rate.
The new committee is to additionally investigate where such gambling-friendly facilities could be located with potential sites in the cities of Bangkok and Pattaya City among the front-runners followed by locales in the southern communities of Phuket and Krabi. Border casinos in neighboring Cambodia already attract thousands of punters every year while this coming examination is to moreover look into potentially allowing such enterprises to open in the northern Thai hamlets of Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani.
However, the President for the Association of Thai Travel Agents, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, expressed concern about the corruption that may come with the widespread legalization of casino gambling. He furthermore expressed a fear that such complexes could become the preserve of a small group of operators with access to large amounts of cash via an ability to list on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
“Our greatest concern is law enforcement, which has always been wetravelersak in Thailand,” Sisdivachr said. “Moreover, if these projects are owned by particular interest groups, it might create more problems than benefits for the country.”
Similarly, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, Advisory Chairman for the Phuket Tourist Association, declared that his island community does not need a casino because it has already established itself as a popular stop for international travelers with multiple unique selling points. He suggested that such complexes should instead be utilized to drive up tourism in second-tier cities.