After jubilation comes cold feet about Thai casinos

The inevitable anti-casino reaction is now raising its head. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The near-unanimous vote in the House of Representatives to support a committee report broadly supporting casinos in luxury complexes is now suffering the inevitable bucket of cold water. Of course, the Thai premier and his coalition partners, especially interior minister Anutin Charnvirakul, favor legal casinos as they believe the Thai treasury will benefit to the tune of billions of dollars. But critics, such as deputy Democratic leader Suchatvee Suwansawat, are not so sure.

One major concern is that gambling tours, particularly from China, will be organized on a continuing zero sum basis. In other words, the tourists will pay in advance for travel, accommodation and meals thus benefitting the organizers in China and their local partners – Chinese or Thai – once here. Entry to a specified casino, with the entry fee already paid, will likely be part of the deal. Zero sum tours all have in common the ability to cream off the profits into a chain of private hands.

Given the recent publicity about senior Thai policemen being accused of money laundering via illegal gambling sites, it is hardly ridiculous to ponder how easy or difficult it will be to establish a proper regulatory framework. On top of these concerns, we can expect to hear much about the threats to family life and the corrupting effect on teenagers if legal casinos are given the greenlight. Some traditional Buddhists also argue that casinos will be a disincentive to tourists who love beaches, culture and Thai cuisine.

Another senior politician Chaichana Detdacho summed up the issue by suggesting that “heartache rather than fortune” might be the end result of casino introductions. Meanwhile, some others were annoyed that the committee report, which started the fuss, nominated the Eastern Economic Corridor, near Pattaya, as the base for the first luxury casino. It looks like the champions of legal blackjack and roulette had better think it out again.