All eyes on Thailand – the next big gaming destination: Daniel Cheng

Thailand is moving at lightspeed in paving the way for integrated resorts in the country. Senior Gaming Executive Daniel Cheng breaks down where the IRs could be located, what scale of investment tranches are available, bipartisan support, likely rules for locals and the country’s main objective of ensuring its tourism destination dominance in the region.

Here is a summary of some of the main points:

Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin Shinawatra

01:20 – Over 15 years ago, the idea of a casino in Thailand was brought up PM Thaksin Shinawatra, around the same time as Japan and Singapore also proposed casino legislation.

Things are different now from before. Thailand had 40 million tourists before pandemic, most are international, country is already a great tourism destination – have software and hardware already in place.

03:45 – When former PM Thaksin brought up idea of a casino before, he didn’t get the approval of the Royal Palace. All laws in the Thai legislature have to be approved by royal decree. Current PM is royalist, different King now, was first tabled in the Thai legislature two years ago.

05:40 – Current PM had talked about eliminating unregulated online gaming, but isn’t opposed to regulated online gaming.

Thailand is open to considering online gaming, locals gaming, sports betting, eSports, lottery.

07:25 – Thailand differs from Japan – tourism is not large part of Japan’s GDP. Thailand is always looking to grow tourism.

08:50 – Three jurisdictions studied: Macau, Singapore and Malaysia. Final conclusion of study is that it should be more modelled towards Singapore.

10:00 – Committee did not put a number on how many resorts there will be. Talk was that initially there could be up to five IRs. More location at the numbers in relation to the suitable locations and interest from the industry.

11:40 – Industry is hoping for the IR to be in Bangkok. But government wants to spread around economic benefits to the rural areas also.

Study identifies 3 zones where IRs could be built

  • Precinct of greater Bangkok – the Eastern Economic Corridor (Chonburi)
  • Zone of 22 provinces in areas that are within 100km radius of an airport
  • Another 22 provinces which have borders with neighboring countries

13:40 – One of the main objectives of legalizing is to eliminate outflow of money by gamblers to other countries.

14:51 – One of the lawmakers who is also a member of the casino committee is supposedly the biggest owner of the underground casinos. But he seems to be in favor of legalizing. Even with IRs, underground casinos will still continue to operate.

16:30 – IR committee convened with 60 lawmakers, of those 15 are cabinet ministers. The committee was made up of politicians from all the different political parties, meaning Thailand won’t have the political issues that Japan is having. Nearly 120 advisors to the committee, which include politicians, senators, academia, NGOs, major tourism corporations. Study became a 240-day period. House passed the study, now another extraordinary committee will study the legislation.

19:13 – Casino in Hua Hin actually opened in 1939, for three months but was shut down due to improper management.

21:30 – Starting model is to have small, medium and large categories of integrated resort.

  • Large would come with minimum investment of $3 billion
  • Medium investment of $300-$600 million
  • Small would have a minimum investment of $30 million dollars

22:50 – No discussion regarding differentiation for smaller-size casinos in regards to who can gamble, likely to have a universal rule. Will likely set similar restrictions for locals like Singapore – entry fee, income check (citizens have to prove they earn at least $15k per year), must be at least 20 years old.

24:30 – Study is a very credible effort that’s encouraging industry that IRs are going to happen. Now elections are set for mid-May. Cross-partisan support for IRs, doesn’t really matter which is the new ruling party and the PM.

Audience questions

26:56 – What is Thai government looking for in IRs – tax, jobs, keep their place in the tourism hierarchy? What are operators trying to sell them?

27:41 – Be the tourism leader in the region. Stopgap measure against the small border casinos that are syphoning income out of the country. Mitigate the underground casinos. Security and social measure – if they regulate casino gambling than at least there’s some way to control it. And of course, jobs. Economic rejuvenation is very important – so will most certainly see a number of resorts that are outside the city centers.