Thailand In Final Steps Of Casino Legalisation

Thailand In Final Steps Of Casino Legalisation

Thailand has approached the last steps towards the legalisation of gambling establishments. In last week’s vote, a total of 253 out of 257 lawmakers voted in favour of a proposal recommending the legalisation of casinos in large entertainment complexes. The proposal will be forwarded to the cabinet for the last step, final approval. 

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin supports the proposal as he states that “gambling legislation will create jobs and income”. The country says it wants to attract affluent tourists through different gambling establishments across the country. Regulation of gambling operators is also considered important in combating illegal gambling.

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Casinos In Entertainment Complexes

On March 25, members of Thailand’s House of Representatives voted in favour of investigating the legalisation of gambling in Thailand with an overwhelming total of 253 out of 257 votes. A few days later, the Prime Minister of the Asian nation also expressed his support for gambling regulation, highlighting the benefits of “attracting foreign investments”.

The proposed plan will investigate the potential of establishing casinos in entertainment complexes. In addition to casinos, the complexes will have room for concert halls, Muay Thai venues, and horse racing tracks. The intended casino resorts should be built within a 100 km radius of the country’s airports facilitating access for international visitors.

The proposal also shows plans for a 17% tax levy on gross gaming revenue, positioning Thailand as one of the most tax-friendly gambling destinations in the region. Licences are proposed to have a validity of 20 years, with the option for renewal every five years. Larger casinos will need to make a minimum investment of $2.7 billion to secure approval.

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Combat Of Illegal Operators

Most gambling activities are illegal in Thailand, a country that is known for its majority Buddhist, and conservative society. State-run lotteries, Muay Thai and horse racing betting are the only forms of legal gambling. Sports betting and casinos are prohibited, this concerns both online casinos and land-based settings. Muay Thai available for betting are limited to the ones organised at the Lumpinee Stadium. Hosted in the country’s capital city Bangkok, these fights are operated by a state-owned operator. Despite its limited official gambling sector, Thailand has faced difficulty in controlling the significant illegal gambling sector.

“We have to admit that there is a lot of illegal gambling in the country. We are trying to combat the sector, but it cannot be fully wiped out.”

Julapun Amornvivat, Deputy Minister of Finance

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Boosts For Tourism

By legalising gambling, Thailand is believed to kill several birds with one stone. Moving forward to gambling legislation would provide extra income for the state and give a huge boost to tourism and employment in the sector. With regulation in place, one of the most important aims is to attract wealthy tourists. A second objective is to better combat illegal gambling in the country. The country has closely followed Singapore and says it wants to apply a similar approach in terms of regulation, Amornvivat reports.

Another country in the region that could serve as an example is the Philippines. Getting to where the Philippines stand will require time, experience and strategic leaps. Thailand’s recent parliamentary report on gambling, unveiled in 2023, states that the establishment of exclusive zones for Integrated Resorts (IRs), is one way to do this. Experts believe that this will not be without resistance from the real estate sector, cross-border casinos, and illegal domestic operators.

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Studies Into Gambling Legislation

The most recent vote is not the first time that Thailand has studied the legalisation of gambling. In 2021, the House of Representatives formed a 60-person committee to prepare a proposal on legal gambling. It then turned out that 80% of the Thai population shared a positive attitude about the establishment of casinos and the legalisation of gambling after which the parliamentary committee issued a recommendation to legalise gambling. This recommendation proposed five Integrated Resorts in Thailand, similar to Singapore.

One of the international gambling companies that has already shown interest in opening a casino resort in Thailand is US based Las Vegas Sands. As one of the main speakers of the JP Morgan Gaming Forum in March, Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts International, repeated MGM’s interest in entering the Thai market. Industry experts believe that Thailand’s approval for casinos will be concluded within a timeframe of three years.

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