Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devaluka on Monday came out against the legalisation of casinos due to concerns over social ills caused by gambling.
While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has not taken a position on the controversial topic, MR Pridiyathorn made clear his stance against the idea floated by 12 National Reform Council members calling themselves the Rak Chat group, as well as national police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang.
The deputy prime minister voiced concerns about social problems that might arise if casinos are allowed to open their doors in Thailand. He identified debt, crime and prostitution as potential problems that could get worse.
"In this case, I've considered it in terms of a social scientist, not an economist. Casinos are not a money-losing industry, but gamblers will become debtors,'' he said.
The Thai tourism sector sees the country as a regional venue for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) with Singapore as a rival. But MR Pridiyathorn said the casino idea did not fit the concept.
''Casinos are not the MICE business," he added.
Pol Gen Somyot has toned his talk about casinos by calling them ''entertainment complexes'', but he has shown no sign of backing down from supporting the ventures, no matter what they're called.
The police chief said on Monday that he planned to release a chart showing more than 30 border-region casinos in neighbouring countries draw gamblers from Thailand to back up his argument for casinos inside Thailand.
He said he would be ready to hold talks with the Rak Chat group and pledged his support to the NRC members trying to make casinos legal.
Pol Gen Somyot rebutted two polls by Suan Dusit Rajabhat and the National Institute of Development Administration released on Sunday that showed the public disapproved of the casino idea.
He said survey results were unreliable as the samples were not large enough to truly reflect the national sentiment.
He ordered the Royal Thai Police Office to launch a website in September to garner support for the project.
NRC chairman Thienchay Kiranandana said last week that the casino issue was not a reform-agenda item, but the pro-casino members vowed to lobby for the legislation or for the prime minister to quash it.