Casinos in Thailand? Prime Minister Says “No!”

This past week has seen the hottest story in Thailand being debated at every level, but will casinos ever be legalised in Thailand?

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The small group of National Reform Council members who originally publically proposed the introduction of casinos referred to themselves as “NRC Patriots”, but many Thai’s disagree with them and find the idea of legalising gambling in the Kingdom as sinful and immoral.

Photograph Source TBS

The “Patriots” say that the money raised from legalising casinos could help the national economy.

Many of the NRC supporters have kept their identities secret and have been surprised by the strong negative public reaction. Only two members revealed who they are, Anan Watcharothai and Boonlert Kachayuthadej.

The big rumour is that the group were instructed by a wealthy and powerful General to make the proposal public. The NRC backers were allegedly promised new influential roles in the Reform Movement Council, which is set to replace the NRC in two months’ time. TheNRC’s mission will be complete after voting on whether or not to back the draft constitution. There is also talk of the mystery figure offering 10 billion Baht to fund a new political party. The “Patriots” will have some serious explaining to do it seems.

There is also a story developing regarding a world-class casino business having approached the Thai authorities offering development and facilitation advice with view to constructing a casino complex in Bangkok.

Some people were shocked when the national Police Chief, General Somyot Poompanmoung, openly backed the legalisation of casinos. His support has brought much criticism, some have requested he be dismissed. Somyot retires in September from this role.

Somyot said he has done nothing wrong by proposing the idea. He said that people all over the country should decide. It seems that a national referendum could answer the question once and for all.

It isn’t a simple yes or no question for Thailand. There are so many pros and so many cons when considering a huge constitutional change such as this. One argument for is that it will raise funds for the Thai economy through taxation, but one against is that many people will lose their money and ruin their families in the process. It is also suggested it will help reduce illegal gambling as it is a legal alternative, and also it would stop the outflow of Thai money to casinos in bordering countries.NRC-MEmebers

Up until now the Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has remained neutral on the issue, but this week he announced,

“I can tell you that no casino will materialise today.The government has not made any decision on it.”

He added that he has instructed Somyot to stop speaking in support of casinos. The Prime Minister also said he thought casinos could not be set up in Thailand right now. He was asked if casinos would be created in Thailand during his government, Prayut said: “No, they won’t. The legalisation of casinos will take time. Studies and research must be conducted first.”

So it seems for now that the casino debate has been relegated to the back burner, but interestingly enough it has not been dismissed entirely. The Prime Minister intimates that now is not the time and if the legalisation of casinos is to be considered, much research must be carried out. It’s not a simple yes or no. This is a very wise approach by the Thai PM as it should reduce the intensity of the debate without destroying the hopes of those in favour, at the same time appeasing those against. He also said he was not aware of any powerful General backing the proposal.

The casino debate in Thailand is not a new issue, it seems to circulate around every few years or so. It also seems that this story isn’t over, it just looks like the end of this chapter.

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