Srettha: Legalising casinos good for revenue, jobs

Srettha: Legalising casinos good for revenue, jobs

A casino in Nonthaburi, following a police raid on March 19, 2024. (Photo: Department of Provincial Administration)
A casino in Nonthaburi, following a police raid on March 19, 2024. (Photo: Department of Provincial Administration)

The government is considering drafting a casino bill and if passed by parliament, it would generate more jobs and state revenue and allow for the creation of a mega entertainment project, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, also the finance minister, said on Friday.

Casinos are illegal in Thailand and the only gambling allowed is on state-controlled horse races and the lottery, though illicit gambling is commonplace, with underground casinos and soccer betting rife.

Thailand, a Buddhist nation where gambling does not align with Buddhist precepts, is considering allowing casinos as another means of drawing in investment and tourism, according to a study in parliament that was passed late on Thursday.

The study found that Thailand can lift tourism revenue by about US$12 billion (438 billion baht) by legalising casinos and housing them within large entertainment complexes. Average tourist spending may surge 52% to 65,050 baht ($1,790) per trip once the entertainment hubs are built, netting an additional earnings of as much as 448.8 billion baht, according to the study.

Many in the industry believe a legal casino market in Thailand would be a huge success in drawing overseas visitors, providing strong competition for the world's biggest gambling hub Macau, the only place in China where citizens can legally gamble in casinos.

"We can regulate the grey economy and collect taxes ... We do not want to promote gambling but would rather supervise it and use the investment to create jobs," Mr Srettha wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Legalisation of gambling has been discussed in the past, but no government has gone ahead due to public opposition.

Underground casinos do exist in Thailand, but large numbers of its people travel to neighbouring Cambodia and beyond to visit huge casino complexes, revenue that gambling advocates say could be kept in-country.

The proposed entertainment complex, the location of which Mr Srettha did not disclose, would have a concert hall and sports venue, among other things, plus a gambling floor, although that would account for only 3% to 10% of the total area, he said on X social media.

The cabinet would have to submit a draft law to parliament for consideration, he added.

Thailand is the latest nation to consider competing for a pie of the global casino industry, which IBIS World estimates generated $263.3 billion in revenue last year. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) set up a framework for legalised gaming in September, with the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah seen as frontrunners to introduce casinos.

In 2022, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalise cannabis though it is now moving to ban its recreational use, and is set to become the first in Southeast Asia to legalise same-sex marriages.

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