Thailand to Explore Integrated Resorts to Spur Post Covid-19 Economy

Posted on: December 6, 2021, 08:01h. 

Last updated on: December 6, 2021, 09:27h.

Thailand might become the next country to embrace the integrated resort (IR) market. Its Parliament is reportedly soon to investigate whether casino gaming could be introduced to the country.

Bangkok, Thailand
An aerial view of Bangkok, Thailand. The city could be home to a casino resort within a few years. (Image: Forbes)

Last week, Thailand’s Parliament showed overwhelming support for the idea of exploring a potential IR market.

Almost all legislators voted to move the idea forward, according to The Bangkok Post. Now, the House of Representatives will create a committee to investigate whether IRs could be supported.

This isn’t the first time Thailand, with a population of around 70 million, has brought up the subject of legal casino gambling. The country has, for years, fought underground gambling, and in 2017, broached the subject once again.

That was the first time in recent history that the idea was openly considered, although it was discussed often behind closed doors.

Momentum Building Quickly

The committee will be made of 60 individuals. Fifteen of those will be cabinet representatives, and the remainder will be  lawmakers from different political parties, according to The Bangkok Post.

The goal of the group will be to discuss the legal and moral implications of casino gambling, as well as the potential economic impact it could have on the country.

Should the projected time frame be maintained, the results of the study could be known within 90 days. It’s too early to know what the legalization process will be like if everything goes well. It could take several years, like what has been seen in Japan, or it could take just a matter of months.

If the initiative survives political scrutiny, it likely won’t take long for Thailand to attract attention from international casino operators. Las Vegas Sands has said for the past couple of years that it would welcome the opportunity to add the country to its portfolio. With the changes being seen in Macau lately, other operators are likely to be interested in shoring up their international options as well.

COVID-19 Opens Gambling Doors

In an effort to increase international tourism and overcome the fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic, IR discussions might now be taken more seriously. The idea already has support from Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. He stated this past January that he would be amenable to talking about legalized gambling.

At the time, he admitted that allowing casinos could be a way to combat the rise in illegal gambling. However, he wasn’t sure if they would be accepted by the majority of the country’s population because of the “moral” questions that gambling creates.

However, lawmakers in Thailand may have had an epiphany. They have realized that, in neighboring countries like Cambodia where casinos are allowed, there is a lot of gambling activity. Moreover, a significant portion of that comes from Thai gamblers. That is to say that not all country citizens would frown on legalized casinos in Thailand.

According to some studies, up to half of Thailand’s adult population acknowledges having participated in illegal gambling.

Thailand’s Gaming History

Gambling in the country has been widely illegal in recent history. In 1910, all gaming properties were closed in response to rising criminal activity.

The idea of legalized gambling saw a resurgence from 1930 to 1935. Efforts were made during that period to bring back the activity. However, because of public backlash, the topic was dropped. It remained hidden for another 80 years.

In 2016, the country’s former King Bhumibol, a staunch opponent of casinos, passed away. With that, greater flexibility and discussions on the possibility of bringing discussions of legal casinos to the forefront were renewed.

Currently, only the government-sponsored lottery and horse racing bets are legal.