Thai Casinos Could Stir Corruption, Human Trafficking, Says Paper

Posted on: November 15, 2023, 01:12h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2023, 02:31h.

Thailand could be the next great casino frontier in the Asia-Pacific region. However, naysayers believe the addition of integrated resorts in the Southeast Asian nation could facilitate more corruption and stir up increased human trafficking.

Thailand's Parliament
A look inside Thailand’s Parliament. The government is warming to allowing casinos in the country, but some believe it’s a bad idea. (Image: The Bangkok Post)

In a new op-ed, the Bangkok Post highlights the plight of 164 Thai nationals who are stuck in neighboring Myanmar’s Shan state because of an armed conflict between government troops and rebel factions. Some Thais were lured to Myanmar to work in call centers and casinos. But others may have been nabbed by human traffickers seeking to force the victims to work against their will in gaming venues.

Myanmar casinos located just over the Thailand border are believed to be homes for much more than gaming; those other activities are often nefarious.

These operations not only involve gambling. The dens are reported to be involved in narcotics and human trafficking and are known to be safe havens for money laundering,” according to the Post’s editorial. “Through collaboration with corrupt Thai officials and Thai conspirators, it would be no surprise if this illicit money is then diverted back into Thailand and laundered via the purchase of real estate, supercars, luxury designer accessories.”

The publication notes that the Thai government has long directed harsh rhetoric against human smuggling but has offered little tangible solutions to the problem.

Thai Policymakers Examining Casinos

There are stark differences between the casinos in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar – all countries that share borders with Thailand – and the integrated resorts found in other Asia-Pacific markets, such as Macau and Singapore.

Thai policymakers are examining the possibility of allowing traditional, regulated gaming venues, and last month, they announced the formation of a committee to examine the matter. Thailand lacks the gaming infrastructure seen in other nations in the Asia-Pacific region, including Macau, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. But the country is showing signs it’s increasingly open to integrated resorts.

It’s widely believed that if Thailand eventually approves regulated casino hotels, the country will lure bids from some of the biggest names in the gaming industry. While that would be a boon for government receipts, it’s possible that the addition of casinos within Thailand could stoke more human smuggling, noted the Post.

A recent study that recommends the addition of casinos to Thailand also supports iGaming, which could lure bad actors from neighboring countries, according to the paper.

Corruption Problematic for Thai Casino Plans

Even if Thailand eventually opts to allow regulated gaming venues, it’s possible that the country’s reputation for rampant corruption could deter some of the big-name operators the government there would like to lure.

It’s often said that, particularly outside the U.S., backroom dealings and payola are involved in getting approval for new casino hotels.

As for Thailand, it ranked 101 out of 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The country’s CPI score was just 36 out of 100.