Thailand Will Consider Legalizing iGaming And Casinos To Offset COVID-19 Losses
A Thai legislator is calling for the legalization of brick and mortar casinos and online gaming in Thailand, as a way for the country to recoup its massive losses in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic quelling its typically reliable international tourism industry.
Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, the leader of the Thai Civilized Party, stated that he will be launching an exploratory committee to determine possible opportunities for the country.
Gambling is generally considered taboo in Thailand. Since Thailand’s Gambling Act of 1935, which allows only national lotteries and horse race bets, Thai lawmakers have shied away from working toward any expansion of gambling.
However, despite the presence of these rules prohibiting gambling, many Thais have in fact gambled. A study conducted by the Thai Center for Gambling Studies and Center for Social and Business Developments, more than 50% of all Thais have tried gambling—whether legal or illegal in 2019.
The loss of revenue from tourists flocking to Thailand this year may be offset by the legalization of gambling, based on Suksintharanon’s proposal.
Gambling Controversial in Thailand
Gambling in any form continues to be controversial in Thailand. The Thai Interior Ministry went after claw crane machines earlier in 2020, labeling them as gambling tools under the Gambling Act.
Suksintharanon believes that Thailand could generate between THB 5 and THB 6 billion ($160.9 to $193.1 million) per year in taxes. He also stated that, despite the current illegal nature of online gambling in Thailand, many offshore sites explicitly target Thai players for their games, without paying Thailand any taxes.
Suksintharanon also believes that Thailand could benefit from casinos housed inside large entertainment complexes, a concept that has been utilized extensively among integrated resorts in Macau, South Korea, and the Philippines.
Such entertainment complexes may be located in Thailand’s most popular venues among tourists, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Rayong, Phitsanulok, Ubon Ratchathain and Nakhon Ratchasima.
Thai Economy Based on Tourism
In typical times, Thailand’s economy relies largely on tourism, both local and international. However, their international tourism business is where the country derives much more revenue.
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of international tourists in Thailand have dropped. Industry analysts believe that Thailand’s economy may find it hard to recover without allowing international tourism once again.
Suksintharanon believes that the added attraction of legalized land based casinos and regulated iGaming will further boost the tourism market in Thailand.