On Monday it was announced by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej that he is considering legalizing gambling in Thailand. He plans on following in the footsteps of Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, but did not give details about what types of gambling would be allowed. He did mention however that this move would mean that there would no longer for police to spend time raiding the numerous small gambling dens now in existence.
Realizing that nearly ever country around Thailand, including Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos now have legal gambling and the fact that numerous Thai’s gamble (I have seen numbers as high as 70%), is it wise for Thailand to legalize gambling?
There are the obvious positive factors such as increased tax revenues, increased hotel occupancy rates, increased tourism and job creation. These will certainly happen as they have in every location that has legalized gambling. Look at the growth of Macau and Las Vegas over the past several years. Macau had an economic growth rate in 2007 of 30% and has already surpassed Las Vegas in gaming revenues and since 2003 has seen tourism quadruple. Can you imagine the impact this type of tourism increase would have in Thailand.
Of course there are also the negatives factors. Casinos can be said to prey upon the poor and many fear that the working class Thai’s would be losing more money to the large casinos than they can possibly lose with the small operation type gambling that occurs now. Others worry that the same type of corruption that is commonplace in Thailand would serve to make sure the potential economic boom would be directed to a select group of individuals pockets rather than serving the public as it does in Las Vegas and Atlantic City here in the U.S. Still others are against gambling on moral issues and suggest that if gambling is legalized the Thai’s might as well legalize drugs and prostitution as well.
I think that legal gambling could be a good thing in Thailand IF it is structured properly and IF the revenues generated are directed towards public works – improving infrastructure, health and education within Thailand. I also think the gambling would need to be confined to certain areas and Thailand should try to entice the large casino operators to invest in Thailand. I certainly don’t want to see a one armed bandit in every little beer bar, guesthouse or train/bus station.
Since PM Samak Sundaravej hasn’t elaborated on what form the legalized gambling will take in Thailand we simply have to wait and see what’s next. In any case I’m sure it will be quite some time before we see the first casino’s opening in Thailand, if ever.
Is it wise for Thailand to legalize gambling?