Daniel Cheng takes an in-depth look at the results of Thailand’s most recent elections and the possible impact the shifting political winds could have on the nation’s casino aspirations, as a younger wave of politicians aim to implement their political agendas.

Daniel Cheng, Thailand, Casino, elections
Daniel Cheng, senior gaming executive
Author: Japan Casino Uprising

The results of the weekend’s national elections in Thailand affirmed that the Kao Klai Party (Move Forward Party) is moving forward with alacrity by winning in stunning form. Resurrected out of the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved in 2020 by the constitutional court on election fraud charges, the undaunted progressive party rode on its platform of dismantling the old political establishment and bringing social and economic equality to romp to victory, almost doubling the number of parliamentary seats it won in the previous election in 2019.

On the count of Election 66 results declared by the Election Commission, the 42-year-old Pita Limjaroenrat is the prime minister-elect of Thailand after the Move Forward Party confounded pollsters by outperforming the Pheu Thai Party to take 151 seats nationwide in a wave where it orange-washed the capital, Bangkok, along the way, save for one seat.

The Shinawatra political dynasty has to be content with the runner-up sash, and the family will not have a third prime minister just yet as Paetongtarn Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai cornered 141 seats. The next closest challenger, Bhumjaithai, only managed to clinch less than half the seats of the top two, while the present government coalition leader, Phalang Pracharat, limped home with only 40 seats. The United Thai Nation Party, the new political vehicle of incumbent prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, fared worse with 36 seats.

Meanwhile, the diminishing, once-grand old Democratic Party is fading into irrelevance and is now left with a paltry 25 seats. Any fears of a discommodious political union were quickly allayed when Pheu Thai announced the next afternoon that it had agreed to form an alliance government with the Move Forward Party and four other smaller parties to create a majority bloc of 309 out of the 500-seat House. Touch wood that the depleted Prayut wouldn’t have the audacity to seize power by inducing his handpicked 250 senators to abet him in forming a minority government.

Implications for casino developments

The Move Forward Party-led government will have to hit the ground running in order to execute its first 100-day roadmap, which the party unveiled two weeks prior to polling day, and deliver on its 300-point promise to implement new policies covering political reform, streamlining the civil service, improving public health and welfare, quality of life, education, the agriculture sector, the environment, and the economy. On the last objective, the bipartisan plan to introduce casino entertainment complexes in the kingdom could help to inject up to 1 trillion baht of investments into the economy and consolidate Thailand’s position at the summit of the regional tourism industry.

With Pheu Thai as the main ruling coalition partner, regional economic revitalization will be a key pillar, which bodes well for entertainment complex developments in their vote bank in the northeast region and the north, where they divided the electoral spoils with MFP. The provinces on the eastern seaboard are perennially favored locations for casino investors with their connectivity to Bangkok and growing infrastructure from their endowment under the Eastern Economic Corridor development plan.

These Gulf of Thailand provinces of Chonburi and Rayong will be firm candidates for large-scale casino resorts, with MFP banishing all political opposition there in the election. The tourism jewel of Phuket has also fallen into the hands of the MFP at the expense of the outgoing Phalang Pracharat Party. That will fuel further optimism about the island’s prospect for one of the entertainment complexes, although its tag as the richest province might not be in its favor.

A changing of the guard in power may spell peril for the agendas of the previous administration. Out will go the 20-year national strategy plan, which was the brainchild of Prime Minister Prayut. The highly publicized deregulation of cannabis championed by Bhumjaithai is certain to be restructured with safeguards to ensure the plant is only for medicinal use.

Entertainment complexes could avoid the axe because of their potential positive stimulus effect on the kingdom’s important tourism sector, which represented 11 percent of Thailand’s GDP in 2019. That the legalization of casinos was propounded by numerous political parties on both sides of the aisle also augurs positively for the plan being carried forward under the new Thai government. Out of the eleven motions tabled in the House of Representatives in its favor, four were from then-opposition parties, including the MFP and Pheu Thai.

New faces, new ideas

However, many of the plan’s custodians in the 60-member parliamentary extraordinary committee have been ousted by Sunday’s election; that might stymy its continuity and momentum. If it proceeds, it may take on a distinct veneer from the recommendations outlined in the committee’s report. For instance, the smallest of the three entertainment complex variants could be thrown out the window as it lacks merit and serves more to fatten the wealth of local rural chieftains.

The fact that the new faces in power hail from a decidedly younger generation, where the average age of an MFP lawmaker is 13 years younger than that of other political parties, could demand a more transformative value proposition from investors regarding the Thai entertainment complex model.

Say goodbye to the old archetypes of harsh neon facades, soapy massage parlors, and the dominance of big corporations. The triumphant Thai entertainment complex licensees will be those that prescribe to a mod Thai soft power, advocate local small businesses, are friendly to the environment, and embrace innovation and cutting edge technologies.

MFP’s “good politics” promise greater transparency and a fairer due process for investors. The timely ascension of “Nayok Pita” may just be what the doctor ordered to up the ante on integrated resorts and make way for the next generation in the casino industry with Thai Entertainment Complexes.