Following the decriminalization of cannabis, Thailand now plans to open casinos to raise foreign money to boost its pandemic-hit economy.
A group of Thai lawmakers submitted a report to parliament on Wednesday, July 27, recommending that the government issue a decree allowing the construction of “entertainment complexes”, including legal casinos, in major cities across the country.
The proposal comes as Thailand seeks to revive its critical tourism industry, which is key to reviving the country’s economy.
Get more money out of the pockets of tourists
The plan, if passed, could help Thailand raise billions of dollars from foreign investors, travelers and Thai gamblers who would otherwise spend money on gambling in neighboring countries.
“We are looking to attract foreigners to stimulate tourism and get more money out of their pockets,” said Pichet Chuamuangfan, an MP from the Pheu Thai party who is vice chairman of the commission.
“It will also help stop the flight of money from Thai players and help the government collect high taxes for our economic security.”
The casino proposal is part of Thailand’s overall move towards a more liberal legal landscape.
Last month, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis and the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex unions.
According to Mr Piche, the ideal location for the first casino would be Greater Bangkok, followed by establishments in the southern coastal provinces such as Phuket, Krabi or Phang Nga.
Tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai in the north and Chonburi, home to the resort town of Pattaya, are also obvious candidates among the 77 provinces.
He added that at least $11 billion in additional tax revenue would be collected each year once additional facilities were put into operation.
The commission’s recommendations are based on Thailand’s Gambling Law of 1935, which prohibits most forms of betting, but contains a provision that gives the government the power to issue decrees or licenses to allow certain activities and gambling sites.
One of the keys to the success of properties in Thailand will be allowing locals to participate, officials said, as foreigners-only properties in Vietnam and South Korea “showed how casinos suffer without a regular visit,” officials said. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Angela Hanley and Kai Ling Chu in the March report.
Casinos in Poipet, a Cambodian town across the border, are now “powered by Thai players,” according to the report.
Public-private partnerships can be established with national or foreign companies, or activity licenses can be issued directly to private companies.
In any case, the complexes should include facilities such as hotels, amusement parks and retail outlets, Pische said.
He added that offering multiple activities would avoid creating hangouts for gamers and broaden the appeal of the tourism industry.
Thais over the age of 20 with at least 500,000 baht in their bank account will be allowed to gamble under the proposal, which includes a minimum tax of 30% on casino operators’ income.
Following the presentation of the draft on Wednesday, Thai lawmakers will discuss whether to act on the recommendations, which could be passed before the September break, Piche said.