Thailand’s leaders have been discussing the possibility of legalized casinos, partly in response to endemic illegal gambling in the country. Legislators are reportedly going to take another step forward today, laying out how casinos might operate within integrated resorts (IR).
Legislators meet in Thailand’s National Assembly. The country is set to review a bill that could lead to legal casinos in the country. (Image: South China Morning Post)
The Bangkok Post reported that Thailand’s National Assembly could open a discussion on physical casinos when it meets today. There are plenty of topics that they still have to address before any legislative measure reaches the finish line, and the meeting could move the plan forward.
However, despite the fact that lawmakers have been working on the plan for a year, patience is a necessity. Operators like MGM Resorts International, which reportedly has its eye on the country, are going to have to wait a lot longer.
Ironing Out The Details
Among the topics up for discussion, according to the media outlet, are the size of the casino’s gaming floor and responsible gambling initiatives. In addition, lawmakers have to decide where they will authorize the construction of the properties.
Should the current framework remain once final approval is given, the casinos would be able to occupy just 5% of the total IR space. This is slightly larger than what Japan expects from its IRs, as it put a 3% limit on the casino floor. Elsewhere, such as in Macau, the gaming floor can be must greater.
Even if the size of the gaming portion of the IR changes, there will be other aspects of the property that Thailand will still demand. It wants the resorts to offer a wide range of activities for tourists, including zoos, amusement parks, stadiums and more.
If Thailand allows casinos, it also has to determine where locals can gamble. If they can, as a measure of responsible gambling, they could have to prove they meet certain income thresholds. Those levels are still under review.
The amount lawmakers are tentatively discussing is TBH500,000 (US$15,000). If locals can verify that they have held that amount in their bank accounts consistently for a six-month period when registering to gamble, they might receive authorization.
The annual average salary in Thailand, according to Global Data, is around US$40,000. However, given that the country’s richest people control over 85% of the wealth, according to Credit Suisse, there will be plenty of gamblers available.
Location, Location, Location
There’s also a question about where the IRs will appear. The logical choices are where there are already strong tourism foundations, which makes Bangkok a viable option. But, there’s also the country’s Eastern Economic Corridor, covering Pattaya, Rayong and others, that would be smart choices.
Although there have been rumors that Thailand could approve just one casino, arguments to allow multiple properties are being made. There are at least 25 locations the government believes could be solid investments. However, it will likely only choose one or two to begin.
Going from no legal casino gambling to tapping into the market is a large uncertainty, but Thailand has a bold plan. It wants its properties to be bigger and brighter than those of Singapore. This means, if the plan is approved, the race for customers across the region will become more competitive.
Singapore doesn’t have to worry yet, though. The Bangkok Post believes that today’s discussion is only a small step in the process, and that Thailand won’t reach the finish line soon. The House of Representatives will end its term at the end of next month, and will likely not have completed its discussion.
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