Thailand Could Consider Casino Resort in Songkhla Near Malaysia Border

Estimated read time 3 min read

The odds continue to shorten that Thailand will join the many other countries in Southeast Asia that have legalized commercial casino resorts. At least one province is already announcing its candidacy for such an entertainment complex.

The Old Town neighborhood of Songkhla City, Thailand. As the country continues to mull casinos, local officials in the Songkhla Province have come out in support of bringing a gaming resort to the nation’s southern region. (Image: Tripadvisor)

Thailand’s House of Representatives almost unanimously passed a casino gaming bill in late March. The bill has the support of the country’s Cabinet and is currently undergoing a review by the Finance Ministry.

For Thailand to become a casino state, the legislation still needs the approval of the Senate and a final endorsement from the king.

Supporters in Bangkok of the gaming push believe casino resorts could help grow Thailand’s economy with increased tourism. Local officials in the Songkhla Province, the southernmost region of the country that borders Malaysia, agree.

The Bangkok Post reported this week that provincial leaders are excited about the prospects of bringing a casino to the area. 

Tourism Generator

Songchai Mungprasithichai, president of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, says tourism in the southern region remains considerably subdued compared with before the global COVID-19 pandemic. Songchai believes casinos could lure in travelers from neighboring Malaysia and elsewhere throughout Southeast Asia.

Tourist flows are not consistent as in the past,” Songchai said. “Despite being an Islamic country, Malaysia allows legal casinos in Genting.”

Songchai said the province would be interested in obtaining one of Thailand’s casino licenses should the nation move forward in venturing into the gambling industry. He reasons that a resort could help drive tourism, but a coordinated campaign is first needed to educate the public on the benefits of allowing a casino in the province.

For the entertainment complex plan to run smoothly, it must address the economic impact on locals and help them understand the development,” he explained. The tourism chief added that gambling should only be one facet of the resorts with other amenities including hotels, retail shopping, entertainment, and meeting spaces.

Though some Thailand lawmakers want to prioritize domestic resort companies and Genting for the casino opportunities, should they become available, one major global casino firm has also expressed interest. Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said on the company’s earnings call this month that the firm is keeping close tabs on the casino considerations in Thailand.

Gaming Border Wars

Malaysia continues to deny reports that its prime minister recently met with Genting’s billionaire Chairman Lim Kok Thay and lottery magnate Vincent Tan about possibly authorizing another casino license. A Bloomberg report, which Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Lim, and Tan have each since dismissed as false, claimed Anwar was interested in allowing a casino in Johor’s Forest City near the Malaysia-Singapore border.

A casino in Forest City, a financially desolate planned luxury mixed-use development, would have likely negatively impacted operations at Singapore’s two casinos — Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa.

Resorts World is Genting’s casino and resort brand. Along with Singapore, Genting has integrated resorts in the US, UK, the Philippines, and the Bahamas. The conglomerate additionally owns and operates Malaysia’s lone casino — Resorts World Genting in the Pahang Highlands.

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