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Third time lucky for casinos in Thailand?

Third time lucky for casinos in Thailand?

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Following a vote in parliament, in which more than 90% voted in favour, the Government of Thailand is to establish a special committee to look again at the possible legalisation of casinos in the country. Legal casinos already exist in the neighbouring nations of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, but despite all previous efforts almost all forms of gambling have remained illegal in Thailand for over 85 years.

After the devastating tsunami of 2004, two attempts were made to propose legalised casinos as a means of economic regeneration but with his Majesty, King Rama IX, believed to be strongly opposed, these efforts came to nothing. But in 2021, with Covid-19 still amongst us all, things may now be different. Thai ministers and business leaders are, like much of the world, under huge pressure to raise revenues and rebuild battered economies. It is also universally known that illegal gambling is rife throughout the country and that any punishment greater than a modest fine is rare, so the notion of cleaning up the sector, and creating a legitimate – and taxable – business entity is a powerful one. With such strong historical precedent, however, the opposition will be fierce. Religious and family groups will argue strongly and may well have widespread support.

The positive news for the industry is that at least official machinery is in motion. And if the leading lights of the international operating sector come on board, and the concept is presented as one of luxury resort hotels, premium cabaret, fine dining and other integrated high-end entertainment, then maybe the vision of those lobbying for casino developments in Thailand can become a reality.