About a dozen members of Thailand’s National Reform Council (NRC) have signed on to an idea to legalize casinos in the predominantly Buddhist country. The news site The Nation reports that Major Arnun Watcharothai and Kriangkrai Phumlaochaeng were among the members supporting the idea.
Thailand currently does not allow casino to operate in the country and experiences a significant flight of capital across it’s borders when citizens leave the country to gamble.
This is not the first time the idea to legalize casinos has come to light. Previous governments, including the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, have probed public sentiment in regard to granting concessions to develop entertainment centers and casinos. The ideas have historically been met with fierce resistance.
In order for the members’ idea to move forward they would need to convince a majority of the NRC to approve a casino-revival plan which would then need to be approved by the Cabinet and the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order.
The arguments in the case center around a conflict of economic and ideological priorities.
Proponents say that Thais will gamble regardless, and keeping their money at home will bolster the economy. Locals would be employed by the gambling clubs. A focus on tourists would bring much needed capital into the country, especially if gaming centers were located in highly visited locales such as Bangkok. Citizens would be required to present financial statements before entering casinos to establish their ability to lose money without harm to their families or communities.
Opponents note that gambling is not an acceptable social behavior in Buddhist society.
The group is aware that previous attempts to legalize gambling have fallen on deaf ears and generated vehement opposition. They believe there are enough economic benefits to the idea to try to move the proposal forward.
Royal sports and turf clubs with horse racing, and the official government lottery are the only forms of legal gambling in Thailand. In May, Thai General Prayut Chan-ocha fired the country’s lottery board and established himself as its director. Reforms such as a maximum price of 80 baht per ticket and the elimination of the “jackpot” or bonus first prize of 22 or 30 million baht have been implemented.