Thai Lawmaker Calls for Legalization of Casinos, Online Gambling
A Thai lawmaker is pushing for the legalization of land-based casinos and online gambling in a bid for new tax revenue sources to be created as the lack of international tourism in Thailand for the greater part of the year has seen the Southeast Asian country bleed big money.
Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, leader of the Thai Civilized Party, said earlier today that he would establish a committee to explore opportunities for the legalization of casinos within larger entertainment complexes.
Thai lawmakers have historically been opposed to any forms of gambling expansion in the country. Under the nation’s Gambling Act 1935, government-run lotteries and betting on horse races are the only gambling activities that are permitted in Thailand.
Despite the long-standing restrictions, gambling participation in the nation has been very high. According to a survey by the Thai Center for Gambling Studies and Center for Social and Business Developments, more than a half of the country’s residents have engaged in legal or illegal gambling activities in 2019.
However, as Thailand grapples to recover from the fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the legalization of new forms of gambling could earn the nation precious tax money, Mr. Mongkolkit pointed out.
Earlier this year, the Thai Interior Ministry launched a crackdown on the so-called claw crane machines that could be found at shopping malls around the country, saying these were gambling tools that served a betting purpose under the Gambling Act and were thus illegal.
Mr. Mongkolkit said that the legalization of casinos and online gambling could generate between THB5 billion and THB6 billion (between $160.9 million and $193.1 million) in annual taxes for the country.
The lawmaker noted that even though online gambling is illegal in Thailand, there are many offshore sites that target Thai customers and the country gets no tax revenue from that.
As for land-based gambling, Mr. Mongkolkit calls for the legalization of casinos within larger entertainment complexes. The concept is very similar to the widely popular integrated resorts in other parts of Asia, including Macau, the Philippines, and South Korea.
The Thai lawmaker said that the government could permit the development of entertainment complexes with casinos, hotels, theme parks, and other attractions in popular, tourist-heavy areas such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Rayong, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Ubon Ratchathani, among others.
Thailand’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, particularly on international arrivals. It took a big hit this year and some analysts say that it will not be able to rebound until international tourists are allowed back into the country.
Mr. Mongkolkit said that the legalization of gambling and tax revenue from various gambling activities could help Thailand’s economy pick up again.
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