Thai Casinos: Official Support Grows

Thailand Finance Minister Sommai Phasee (l.) has joined the call for casino resorts in the country provided they are strictly regulated and located in resort areas. But almost 60 percent of people in a recent survey opposed legal gambling in Thailand.

Advocates say casinos will keep the money at home

Thailand’s Finance Minister Sommai Phasee has offered his qualified support for casino resorts in the country, as long as they are strictly regulated, according to the Bangkok Post. He joins 12 National Reform Committee members who support the idea, which has also been backed by the national police chief.

In a recent radio interview, Sommai said casinos might help Thailand generate more convention and meeting business and boost other tourism. “We lose more than we gain letting people spend their money somewhere else. Other countries have taken our people’s money,” he said.

The plan may not have broad popular support, however. A recent survey conducted by Bangkok University showed that a majority of people polled do not want legal casinos in Thailand. More than 1,000 adults participated in the poll, which showed that 58.5 percent of respondents oppose legal casinos; 35.1 percent approve; and 6.4 percent have no opinion.

Those who oppose casinos said they are immoral and would lead to more crime and compulsive gambling. Supporters of the plan say legal casinos would keep Thai gamblers and their money at home, deter illegal gambling, and provide revenue and jobs as well as new tourist traffic.

Despite his support for the plan, Sommai said he does not want a mass proliferation of casinos and gambling halls in Thailand. “I disagree with allowing Mr. This and Mrs. That to run a casino. But if we open a large entertainment complex, that’s another story,” he said.

National Police Chief Somyot Pumpunmuang recently drew criticism for coming out in favor of casinos “1 million percent.” Making casinos legal was first proposed by a group of 12 National Reform councilors led by Major Anan Watcharothai.

On the other side of the issue is Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, who says casinos have been historically associated with a rise in social problems, including increased household debt, corruption and a higher crime rate, reported GGRAsia.

According to Pridiyathorn, fewer than 20 percent of gamblers win money at casinos. And when he met with representatives from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. earlier this year, the deputy PM recalled, “I told them I could support investment in an entertainment complex but not one with a casino.”

According to the Phuket Insider, the three most likely casino locations are Pattaya, Ubon Ratchathani and Phuket.