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Moves afoot for Thailand to legalise casinos

Fri, Jun 30, 4:12pm by Head Editor

For Australians, Thailand has always been a consideration when it comes to deciding on a holiday destination, and it is that industry – tourism – that may lead to the country with the world’s 20th highest population, to legalise casinos.

It’s been more than 80 years since the Southeast Asian nation introduced gambling laws and just as it is in a country that’s 4,000 kilometres away – India – the laws are well overdue for an overhaul.

As it stands, apart from the state-run lottery and betting on horses at the Bangkok Turf Club, gambling in Thailand is banned, but illegal betting and underground casinos are rife.

Rattaphong Sornsuphap, from Rangsit University’s College of Social Innovation, told that there were as many as 10 underground casinos operating in the greater Bangkok area alone prior to the military takeover in 2014.

These casinos had an estimated annual gross income of between $5 billion and $5.6 billion annually, and if casinos are legalised, tax revenues alone could reach $2.78 billion.

This is not the first time that Thailand’s government has considered legalising betting houses with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra behind a plan to open the first casino in Pattaya.

He was ousted by a military coup in 2006 which obviously put an end to that campaign, but in the last few years, the proposals have gained momentum. Last year, the idea received support from both senior government and police officials.

Initial planning has placed at least one major casino resort in the greater Bangkok area with another expected in the resort destination of Phuket Island in southern Thailand.

The next general elections are due to take place in late 2018, and it’s expected that a decision on casino gambling will come after that. Current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed some caution over the plans.

Last year, 8,757,466 Chinese tourists visited Thailand, and given that China’s gambling laws are incredibly strict, this move could prove a fruitful one for Thailand, considering it’s only a four-hour flight from Shanghai to Bangkok.

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