Thai Legislature Backs Casino Feasibility Report

April 2, 2024
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Thailand’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a committee report supportive of integrated resorts, paving the way for draft legislation amid bullish support from the Prime Minister.
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Thailand’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a committee report supportive of integrated resorts, paving the way for draft legislation amid bullish support from the Prime Minister.

The House of Representatives on Thursday (March 28) approved a long-gestating report into the economic benefits of integrated resorts and associated gambling reforms, prompting supportive comments from Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

The vote was 253 in favour with no opposition and four abstentions.

Citing the experience of Singapore, Srettha said on his Twitter/X account on Friday that the resorts would “enhance the nation’s tourism industry”, attract massive investment and deliver “international stadiums, conference centres, concert halls and spaces for local product expos”.

“The gambling area, or casino floor, would account for only 3 to 10 percent of the total floor area,” he wrote in Thai.

Approval for the ad hoc committee’s report “is an important step in resolving the [nation’s] gambling problem”, he said, referring to prolific underground gambling activity and the appeal to Thais of border casinos in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

“If we face up to reality the government can regulate this grey economy and appropriately collect tax revenue.

“The government does not wish to promote gambling, but it does want to ensure the effective supervision” of the industry, he said, while growing the economy and creating jobs.

The Cabinet is expected to study the report before presenting draft legislation to lawmakers, probably during the current parliamentary term, House committee deputy chair Chakkrapol Tangsutthitham told the Nation Daily on Friday.

“We have wasted enough time and lost too many opportunities,” Srettha wrote. “The government will now make up for lost time and turn this into an economic opportunity benefiting the nation and the citizenry.”

Deputy finance minister Julapun Amornvivat, who chaired the House committee, told reporters on Friday that Cabinet support for a bill would include the creation of a dedicated government agency to supervise the industry.

However, Julapun said online gambling will not be introduced as part of the reform package, citing enhanced risk to children.

Julapan’s remarks suggest that the liberalisation of online gambling must occur, if at all, through different legislative means, despite high-profile political support for such regulation.

The locations of resorts remain unclear and contested, with the report supporting more economically developed areas within reasonable reach of airports and other transport options, while dissenting opposition lawmakers have called for more flexible criteria.

Notwithstanding the comprehensive vote in favour of the report, political and civic voices continue to warn against the legalisation of land-based casinos, or at least fallout from the process.

Opposition Democrat Party lawmakers on Sunday expressed scepticism at the promised volume of tax revenue and said concerns over problem gambling and gambling-linked crime remain unaddressed.

An assortment of academics, anti-gambling activists, business figures and civic groups have also re-issued statements of concern and caution at the policy direction of the government.

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