Will Gambling Destinations Accelerate the Recovery of Thailand’s Tourism Industry?

Thailand remains as the only non-Muslim, Southeast Asian nation without an integrated resort-casino to offer as vacation-cum-gambling destinations to tourists. Yet the reputation might not hold for long, since the parliamentary debates on the legalization of casino gambling is over.

In December 2021, 310 Ministers in the Lower House voted to create an Executive Committee to study and weigh the pros and cons of allowing terrestrial casinos to operate in Thailand. Only nine (9) MPs voted against the proposal while 10 MPs abstained. Apparently, the overwhelming shift is founded on the desire to augment the country’s greatly reduced tourism income by allowing the establishment of integrated resort-casinos in the country.

While a gambling industry does exist in Thailand, many observers in the igaming world believe that the bulk of adult gamblers in Thailand are into lottery, horse racing, sports betting, esports betting and occasionally, online casino gambling. Recent statistical reports revealed that in recent years. more than half (57%) of Thailand’s 70 million adult population gambled at least 160 billion baht (US$5 billion) on football competitions alone; either via online sportsbooks or in underground bookmakers operating in Thailand’s major metropolitan centres.

Global Gaming Analyst Doubts the Feasibility of a Casino Industry in Thailand

Vitaly Umansky, Managing Director and Senior Analyst of AB Bernstein, an asset management firm, doubts that the addition of an integrated resort casino will provide what the Thai government wants to achieve. Umansky explained that while there is certainly a demand for a gambling market, Thailand gamblers are placing wagers all over the place.

Besides, this analyst doubts if the desire of Thai lawmakers to ban locals from casino gambling will align with the plans of integrated resort operators. Their plans were based on a feasibility report about Thailand’s potential as a lucrative location prior to the pandemic outbreak. That was during the time when Thailand was seeing as many as 40 million tourists annually,

The reality is that the country’s planning agency expects that only 5.5 million tourists will arrive in 2022, a slight increase from the 5 million tourists who visited Thailand in 2021. If Thai lawmakers are looking to have “Foreigner-Only” casinos in the country, Umansky thinks it’s not going to work for the better. Beside, building an integrated resort worth US$5 billion that caters only to international visitors while having to pay absurd taxes will not pan out for investors.

Even if Thai follows Singapore and Japan’s casino business model of allowing local gambling in exchange for an entry fee ranging between 500 to 1,000 baht, legal casinos will only exclude gamblers who cannot afford to gamble in plush casinos in the first place, The bulk of the country’s gamblers will continue to engage in เว็บ พนัน or web gambling and in some cases, in back alley casinos.

There are now safe and secure online gambling platforms, in which gamblers can place bets on sports matches, esports events and casino games by just using their smartphone or laptops using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). On our part, we believe that the better option is to consider weighing the advantages over the disadvantages of online gambling.