The House of Representatives has voted in favour of a special committee’s report in exploring the opportunity of setting up a casino-entertainment zone in Thailand. After a three-hour meeting, the report was passed with 310 votes for, and nine votes against.
The report, which was prepared by the special committee set up in December 2021, states that Bangkok, with the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and areas within a 100-kilometre radius of Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao airports, would be ideal hosts for a casino complex. Amenities such as five-star hotels, shopping malls, beauty and spa parlours, amusement parks, zoos, indoor and outdoor sports stadiums, as well as the casinos themselves, have been included in the proposal.
Sanhapot Suksrimuang, a committee member from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), said the study took 240 days and its report was comprehensive. Pakornwut Udompipatsakul, another committee member from the Move Forward Party (MFP), added that it must be stressed the report was not tantamount to a call for the setting up of casinos.
The MPs spent about two and a half hours making observations and suggestions before endorsing the report, which will be submitted to the government for further consideration. The eight types of gambling activities allowed by the report include online casinos, betting on the stock exchange index and foreign exchange rates, and betting on the results of international and local sporting events.
Nevertheless, certain concerns were raised during the session. Several MPs emphasised the need for oversight to make sure operators would not add to the country’s social ills and become a place for money laundering. Thanakorn Komkrit, secretary-general of the Stop Gambling Foundation, criticised the committee report as lopsided, saying it hardly touched on how to prevent illegal gambling dens and widespread online gambling.
Decision on the casino-entertainment complex project is likely to be made by the next government. Public hearings and even a referendum among locals must be organised if casinos were to be developed, and the positive and negative impacts should be thoroughly assessed.
The House of Representatives’ decision to explore the possibility of setting up a casino-entertainment zone in Thailand could potentially bring economic benefits to the country, but caution should be taken to prevent the exploitation of casinos by criminal gangs and other social ills. The government must take necessary measures to ensure the welfare of the citizens, and the results of public hearings and a possible referendum should be taken into careful consideration.