In a bid to beat Japan and inaugurate an integrated resort before 2030, Thai authorities are pushing forward with ambitious plans, but legal experts caution that the road ahead is paved with legislative complexities and potential delays, as discussed during a panel session at the G2E Asia conference.

Navigating legislative complexities: prospects and challenges:

At a roundtable discussion on the final day of the gaming conference held in Macau, legal experts dove deep into Thailand’s aspirations and the obstacles surrounding the development of a gaming market and integrated resorts (IRs).

The dialogue underscored Thailand’s fervent aspirations to emerge as a significant contender in the gaming and tourism sectors, potentially surpassing Japan in opening its inaugural casino.

Lau Kok Keng, Partner and Head of Gaming Law Practice at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP, shed light on the current legislative process and the government’s ambitious timeline. According to Asia Gaming Brief, he remarked, “The Thais are desperate to beat the Japanese to open their first casino by 2029, aiming to outpace Osaka’s planned opening in 2030.”

While acknowledging the legislative intricacies, Kok Keng cautioned that after approval by the Ministry of Finance, bills typically undergo public hearings, followed by senate approval, a process that could span up to a year.

The panel also delved into the anticipated tourism growth that IRs could catalyze in Thailand, with government estimates projecting over 50 percent growth if IRs are established.

However, Kok Keng cautioned that Thailand’s current infrastructure might not accommodate such a surge in tourism effectively. He also compared Thailand’s potential IRs to Singapore’s existing ones, highlighting differences in regulation and scale.

Jaewoo Kwak, Partner at Lee & Ko, added complexity by pointing out internal debates within the Thai government regarding the proposal’s viability and potential revenue-sharing concerns.

Feasibility and economic impact:

Kwak emphasized the attractiveness of the proposal for investors, citing the proposed competitive tax rate of 17 percent, comparable to Singapore’s.

As Thailand navigates the hurdles of IR development, panelists agreed that political determination and infrastructure development are pivotal. With the right support, Thailand could position itself as a prominent gaming and tourism destination in Asia.

Conversely, during the Macau conference, some experts expressed skepticism about Thailand’s ability to establish a sustainable and appealing casino industry attractive to top international gaming operators. Despite differing opinions, Thailand’s journey towards integrated resorts continues to captivate the industry’s attention, with its successes and challenges shaping the future landscape of gaming and tourism in the whole region.