The Thai parliament is set to launch a study into the possible introduction of casino gaming after MPs almost unanimously voted in favor last week.
According to The Bangkok Post, the House of Representatives has voted to set up an extraordinary committee that will examine a proposal to open an integrated resort with a casino, with the goal of attracting more foreign visitation and boosting the local economy. It is not yet known how many casino-resorts could be legislated for should such a scenario eventuate or where they would be located.
While the prospects for casino gaming have long been touted in Thailand, it has largely been considered a distant dream at best and was strongly opposed by the nation’s former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in 2016.
However, the issue has gained some momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suggesting in January that he would consider the controversial measure in a bid to curb a growing number of illegal gambling dens.
Notably, both Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon were non-committal when asked about the issue last week, deflecting with the PM stating only that it was “a matter for the people.”
Prawit did note though that the absence of casinos in Thailand was no deterrent to its citizens gambling.
“Look at the countries around us,” he said. “And our people visit those casinos too.”
The extraordinary committee will comprise 60 members of which 15 will be cabinet representatives and the other 45 from various political parties. The Bangkok Post reports the study, which will examine the legal amendments required to legalize casino gaming as well as the social and economic impact of IRs in other jurisdictions, could be complete within just 90 days.
Thailand is considered one of the few great untapped opportunities for casino gaming in Asia and has previously attracted the attention of Las Vegas Sands, which stated as recently as 2019 that it would be interested in developing a casino resort in a major Thai city, preferably Bangkok. That interest may be further piqued now that LVS is flush with cash following the sale of its Las Vegas assets earlier this year.
Thailand remains one of only three ASEAN nations without legal casinos, alongside Indonesia and Brunei, although it has been estimated that as many as half of its adult population gambles via illegal means. With a population of almost 70 million, Thailand is the world’s 20th most populous country.