thailand, casinos

The Thai public has shown overwhelming support to the idea of having legal casinos, seemingly clearing a major potential stumbling block on the road to gambling regulation.

A survey released by the Casino Committee of Thailand found that 81 percent of the 3,296 people surveyed supported the idea, local media reports. 

The survey also polled the public on what kind of facilities they would like to see offered in an IR complex. It found 64 percent wanted a casino with a department store, 40 percent a casino with spa and massage, 39 percent a casino with banks and financial institutions and 37 percent were happy with the idea of a standalone casino. 

On suitable locations, Bangkok and the surrounding areas came out on top with 57 percent support, while others suggested border provinces. 

Casino Committee spokesman, Jakkapon Tangsuttitham, was cited as saying that it would put forward its findings from recent seminars held around the country on July 27th. 

Despite the majority support, there were concerns expressed, with 55 percent worried about the impact on crime and 53 percent worried about debt. 

Thailand is seeking to boost its tourism revenue, which has been hit hard by Covid, as well as stamp out rampant illegal gambling. The jurisdiction is seen as one of the most promising in Asia, with the potential to rival Macau. However, public opinion in the past has shown to be opposed to the idea of legalizing casinos. Public opposition has been one of the key factors in Japan’s disappointing efforts to establish its casino industry.

Some estimates have put the Thai market potential at about $30 billion, split roughly 50/50 between Thais and tourists. 

At the end of June, the committee put forward a proposal to allow five casinos across the country. 

The casinos would be in the north, northeastern, central and southern regions of Thailand as well as the Greater Bangkok area.

The committee has proposed a tax rate of 30 percent. 

Past attempts to push through legislation have been unsuccessful, with draft laws getting bogged down in parliament and opposed by conservative segments of society. However, observers say there is a greater chance this time around as the military government, which has opposed legalization in the past, was the one to put forward the idea this time around. The new king is also believed not to be opposed to gambling.

The proposals stipulate that locals must be 20 years old or over to enter a casino and must prove their financial status. 

The committee has studied various casino market models around the region, including Malaysia and Singapore.