Thai PM says legalising casinos good for revenue and jobs, eyes entertainment project


Srettha Thavisin said the government does not want to promote gambling, but would rather supervise it and use the investment to create jobs. - PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (Reuters): Thailand's government is considering drafting a casino bill and if passed by parliament, it would generate more jobs and state revenue and allow for the creation of a mega entertainment project, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Friday.

Casinos are illegal in Thailand and the only gambling allowed is on state-controlled horse races and the lottery, though illicit gambling is commonplace, with underground casinos and soccer betting rife.

Southeast Asia's second-largest economy is considering allowing casinos as another means of drawing in investment and tourism, according to a study in parliament that was passed late on Thursday.

Many in the industry believe a legal casino market in Thailand would be a huge success in drawing overseas visitors, providing strong competition for the world's biggest gambling hub Macau, the only place in China where citizens can legally gamble in casinos.

"We can regulate the grey economy and collect taxes ... We do not want to promote gambling, but would rather supervise it and use the investment to create jobs," Srettha said in a post on X.

Legalisation of gambling has been discussed in the past but no government has gone ahead due to public opposition.

Underground casinos do exist in Thailand but large numbers of its people travel to neighbouring Cambodia and beyond to visit huge casino complexes, revenue that gambling advocates say could be kept in-country.

The proposed entertainment complex, the location of which Srettha did no disclose, would have a concert hall and sports venue, among other things, plus a gambling floor, although that would account for only 3% to 10% of the total area, he said on X social media.

Cabinet would have to submit a draft law to parliament for consideration, he added.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Orathai Sriring; Editing by Martin Petty)

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