Special Government Committee Earmarks Bangkok for Thailand’s First Casino

  • Bangkok or its surrounds are targeted because of proximity to airports, motorways, and hotels
  • Other casino locations under consideration are tourist destinations near immigration checkpoints
  • Foreigners can enter a casino with passports, while Thai gamblers will face onerous checks
  • Observers believe Las Vegas Sands CEO’s interesting prospect statement relates to Thailand
  • The new King of Thailand is not anti-gambling, giving the legal market a better chance of fruition
Bangkok Thailand
The possibility of legal gambling in Thailand has gained traction after a government committee identified Bangkok as a site for the country’s first casino. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

First legal casino gains traction

A special government committee tasked with investigating the introduction of legalized gambling in Thailand has suggested opening the country’s first casino in Bangkok.

Bangkok will be the first city, with casinos to follow in other jurisdictions.

According to local media reports last week, Bangkok will be the first city, with casinos to follow in other jurisdictions. Co-founder of Asia Gaming Brief, Rosalind Wade, shared the news Tuesday via Twitter:

According to AGB, Thailand’s potential first casino will be in Bangkok “and/or its surrounding areas due to proximity to airports, expressways, motorways and hotel infrastructure.” The Asia-facing gambling news service cited government officials as saying other locations under consideration are popular Thailand tourist destinations “in border provinces and near immigration checkpoints.”

The discussions involving the special government committee looking at casino sites are still in the early stages. The Thai committee has to first formalize their talks on gambling legalization before getting to casino approval stage.  

Easy on foreigners

Being a Buddhist country, gambling is a thorny moral issue in Thailand, which makes the measures discussed by the committee make more sense.

Foreigners can gain access to a casino simply by flashing their passports.

Foreigners can gain access to a casino simply by flashing their passports. Thai gamblers, meanwhile, will be required to show an identity card, “career information, source of income, financial status, saving account, statement, and financial credits,” reports Thaiger.

Betting on the state lottery and horse racing through the Bangkok Turf Club are the only legal forms of gambling in Thailand. Illegal gambling, however, is a pastime that Thais have practiced behind closed doors for a long time.

The casino would also have an age limit and entry fee.

The news of the committee’s traction gives even more weight to Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein’s announcement earlier this month. Goldstein stated his firm may have an interesting prospect in a leading Asian country, which many observers believe to be Thailand.

Hope on the horizon

According to local media reports, however, some commentators have said that a legal market stands a better chance of success this time round, as the Thai government under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is more stable. In addition, the new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is not anti-gambling like his father.

A 2019 study into gambling in Thailand revealed that over half the country’s population engaged in gambling activities. From 2017 to 2019, the number of gamblers rose by 1.4 million, with most in the 19 to 25 age group. The study found underground lotteries and illegal soccer betting were the most popular forms of gambling.

Last year, PM Prayut confirmed his readiness to consider a legal gambling industry for Thailand. His announcement followed police tracing an outbreak of COVID-19 to illegal gambling dens, with Bangkok the epicenter of the outbreak. The impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy and tourism industry gives the move even more political sway.

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