Casino proposal due for cabinet review 'in weeks'

Casino proposal due for cabinet review 'in weeks'

Traction grows as illegal dens, graft proliferate

Slot machines at an illegal casino in Nonthaburi. (Photo: Immigration Bureau)
Slot machines at an illegal casino in Nonthaburi. (Photo: Immigration Bureau)

The cabinet will review a proposal to legalise casinos and allow them to be part of a new type of entertainment complex within two weeks, Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat said on Tuesday.

He was speaking in his capacity as chairman of the House's special committee tasked with studying the feasibility of legalising casinos in Thailand. The project won preliminary approval in the House of Representatives last week.

The cabinet will next review the casino legalisation proposal, which is expected to be within one to two weeks from now, he said.

Several cabinet ministers have already expressed "positive" opinions about the proposal, as they believe it will help curb underground gambling, he said.

Regarding implementation, the proposal indicates that the prime minister is authorised to make the decision. The most likely option is that PM Srettha Thavisin would order the formation of a so-called super board to oversee this, Mr Julapun said.

The creation of a casino as part of a larger entertainment complex is expected to generate huge annual revenue for the government, according to Pichai Naripthaphan, deputy chairman of Pheu Thai Party's committee on strategies and politics.

Macao gains more than 400 billion baht a year and Singapore 70 billion baht a year in revenue from their casinos, he said, adding this revenue tends to grow every year.

The expected rise in revenue could be used to fund the government's policies to help vulnerable groups, deal with the impact of an ageing society and offer more scholarships to students to pursue higher education abroad, he said.

Tens of thousands of high-paying jobs will also be created, he said.

"The fact is all neighbouring countries have casinos … And many Thai gamblers cross the border to those casinos and spend a lot of money there," Mr Pichai said.

On top of that, there are already many illegal casinos in Thailand, he noted.

The key difference is that it is corrupt state officials and influential thugs who are reaping the economic benefits of these illegal gambling dens, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin, meanwhile, pointed out that Thailand must first prepare its people for any potentially negative repercussions on society that the legalisation of casinos could have.

Mr Somsak said Singapore did this while preparing to legalise casinos there in the past.

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