Tourism operators tepid on casino scheme

Tourism operators tepid on casino scheme

Tourism operators are not opposed to legalising casino complexes here, but are concerned the benefits might be concentrated among certain interest groups.

Operators in Phuket believe this business should be located in second-tier provinces rather than major destinations.

The House of Representatives this week agreed to establish a 60-member committee to study the potential of opening entertainment complexes that include casinos.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said casino complexes operate in most of Thailand's neighbours, notably Singapore and Genting in Malaysia.

If Thailand wants to legalise such complexes, it should have appropriate regulations to prevent social impacts, said Mr Sisdivachr.

He said revenue contribution must be fair and transparent, whether in the form of public-private investment or granting concessions to private investors.

Mr Sisdivachr said in the initial stage, authorities should allow each region to have only one complex to weigh the economic and social impact in each area.

"Our greatest concern is law enforcement, which has always been weak in Thailand," he said.

"Moreover, if these projects are owned by particular interest groups, it might create more problems than benefits for the country."

Mr Sisdivachr said while most foreign tourists do not choose holiday destinations based on casino complexes, new attractions can help refresh tourism sites that have remained the same for decades.

Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, said Phuket might not need legal casino complexes as the province has strong selling points to draw foreign arrivals.

He said it's too early to voice an opinion on legalising the casino business as tourism operators still lack details about the proposal.

However, if the purpose is to draw foreign income without focusing on local customers, the government should consider second-tier provinces that have potential but remain less known among tourists, said Mr Bhummikitti.

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