Casinos must benefit Thais
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Casinos must benefit Thais

As the digital wallet and land bridge plans face uncertainty, the Srettha administration is making a new political move with its casino complex economic stimulus project.

Unlike the two other policies, the casino plan has not drawn much criticism, meaning the government can claim credit.

The legalisation of casinos has been a thorny issue in Thailand. Over the past three decades, legalisation attempts by governments and lawmakers have run into hurdles as opponents and anti-gambling groups cited moral and social issues to oppose it.

However, resistance has reduced markedly over time. Anti-gambling groups are not as fierce as they were two decades ago. That might be because lawmakers have spent a number of years crafting policies and laws that curb anti-gambling input.

The latest policy and related laws will only legalise casinos in government-approved entertainment complexes, and they will not legalise online gambling and gambling elsewhere, including in underground dens.

The government will also form a multi-level casino board and a special state body to prevent unwanted social impacts, such as gambling debts and increased criminal activities, such as money laundering.

On Thursday, the government will table the entertainment complex bill in the Lower House for a reading. It won't be surprising if the draft quickly becomes law. The Srettha administration has set a goal of opening a casino in an entertainment complex within two years.

The government expects to collect at least 12 billion baht in revenue from concessions and related tourist spending. The labour ministry believes at least 50,000 people will be hired to work in complexes, which are to be located near international airports or in border provinces with permanent immigration checkpoints, such as Phuket, Phangnga, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phayao.

Despite the expected economic gains, the Srettha government must be cautious and not be blinded by profit. Casino legalisation will only be beneficial if the government can avoid negative social impacts and use the money to aid social development. Can the government, with its record of blatant corruption, rise to the occasion?

Senator Sangsit Piriyarangsan, an expert on the casino legalisation policy, urged the government to impose a 2,000-baht fee to improve the lives of locals. He also asked the government if the casino board would create a "blacklisting system" for people who are addicted to gambling. Sen Sangsit also warned the government about underground businesses prone to money laundering.

That said, the government must be careful when offering concessions. It must only select casino operators with a good business record.

Without fair and transparent bidding, Thailand will be a place for casino operators in neighbouring countries, such as Laos and Myanmar, to continue their business. Some of the casinos operated in neighbouring countries have been involved in crimes, including human trafficking. Most importantly, the government must be vigilant in waging war against illegal local gambling dens and online betting websites.

Thai society, including the government, must not believe that casino legalisation will prevent underground dens in Thailand. To end illegal gambling, the government must force the police to do their jobs and penalise those who allow gambling dens in their jurisdiction.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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