The Way Out for Casino Legalization Debate?

The Way Out for Casino Legalization Debate?

The Way Out for Casino Legalization Debate?

It’s rare that Thai politicians agree on any proposal unanimously but recently, MPs from parties across the board, voted in favor of setting up a 60-seat extraordinary committee, where 310 MPs voted in favor, to consider the opening of entertainment complex or casinos. Currently, the running of casinos is illegal in Thailand. 

A poll was immediately conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration or Nida poll with the results that a majority of 56.83% were against it, citing social reasons of increased family conflicts, higher household debts and criminal activities and religious reason of Thailand being a Buddhist country where gambling should not be legal.

The proposal of legalizing casinos has been debated under many governments and has never seen the light of day mainly due to resistance from the public.

The push for legalizing gambling has resurfaced due to the dire straits the government finds itself in, in terms of tax collections, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated the tourism sector and effected exports, the country’s two major income-earners.

Politicians say the entertainment complex will create a new landmark for Thailand, promote tourism, keep the money within the country from Thai gamblers who nomally travel abroad, increase tax, prevent corruption due to the existence of illegal casinos.

A research is on to study the pros and cons of opening casinos.
The extraordinary committee is set up to find the right location for the entertainment complex, with some suggestions being  Chiangmai, Phuket, Chiangrai, Lamphun, Lampang or Hua Hin. The committee will also be responsible for conducting studies of casinos in neighboring countries. 

It’s unclear, therefore, whether the opening of casinos means the government is seeking to build a state-run entertainment complex with a 6-star resort , meeting venues, retail and of course a casino, judging from the search for a location and in doing so needs to legalize gambling in Thailand or just wishes to legalize gambling to bring in taxes from the illegal establishments, which is outside the system.

Whichever way the politicians are headed, the resistance from the public would be tremendous, enough that although PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha has said earlier he is not opposed to the idea of legalizing gambling, will he give it a green light so close to national elections?

The government is in a dilemma, the need to pick up income from taxes is a real need for flexibility in executing populist policies, to pick up the economy prior to the national elections but the controversial decision may swing the vote the other way.

Perhaps, the government can avoid the backlash if instead of legalizing casinos and gambling across the board, leading to social and religious conflicts, it would be a better idea to create a gambling zone, while gambling remains illegal anywhere else in the country.

Preferably, somewhere in the heart of Isaan, on barren land, a gambling zone can be created much like the Las Vegas strip.

Invite local casinos and international names to open up there, complete with different ranges of hotels, spas, bars, clubs, shows, retail and other entertainment venues. 

A whole gambling town not just one complex.

The revenue that can be earned from taxing casinos is huge.
This is the reason why many countries legalize casinos. It’s a well known fact that casinos operate on a system where the “house always wins” and casinos generate massive income.
Many countries experience a significant boost from casinos paying taxes on their gross gaming revenue (GGR) while taxes on GGR vary from country to country.
It can be as high as 83.5 percent in France or as low as 29 percent in Macau or mid range which is 50 percent in the UK.

Apart from taxes, Thailand’s casino and entertainment town can create a substantial amount of employment, as in the case of Nevada, in 2018, the gambling industry provided employment to 166,741 people.

Furthermore, it will boost the tourism, entertainment, retail and hospitality segment, not to mention the prosperity it would bring to the region selected.

Gambling havens like Las Vegas and Macau do not only attract players and gamblers, they attract a whole range of tourists, from families to bachelor/bachelorettes parties, wedding groups and couples out to have fun.

To attract cryptocurrency investors which is a growing community worldwide , the casinos could also accept cryptocurrency. Chips could be offered to players at a much discounted price from the current going price to safeguard from the volatile nature of digital coins. Cryptocurrency investors are not risk adverse by nature and offering chips in exchange with the digital coins would be a huge appeal.

Desperate times calls for desperate measures but there are ways around it that can be a win-win for everybody.

Written By Patra Manas.