Chairman, Thienchay Kiranandana of Thailand’s National Reform Council (NRC) has stated that the NRC has no plans to consider a proposal to legalize casinos in the country. He added that the plan has not been presented to the full council for consideration and that it is not included in the recent group of reforms that the council is considering.

“Calls to legalize casinos are not among the reform proposals we have put up,” he said.

The Chairman’s comments come on the heels of a recent announcement by a small cadre of council members wishing to renew the debate over legalizing casinos. Major Anan Vacharothai and 11 others came out in support of an idea to legalize casinos in the country to stem the flow of revenue over Thailand’s borders, bolster the economy, and provide jobs in the casino industry.

More than 20 casinos are located on or near Thailand’s borders. Neighboring Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia have legal casinos while only dangerous underground casinos are active in Thailand. Vietnamese citizens are not allowed to gamble at casinos in their own country. Thai citizens may buy official national lottery tickets and if qualified, may bet on horse racing.

Another prominent member of the group, Kriengkrai Phumlaojaeng, is gathering data from past casino legalization studies and wishes for academia to study the matter and provide objective feedback on the issue.

However, the debate is not put to rest with the Chairman’s current refusal to consider. Yesterday, police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung came out in favor of the idea and said he would open a website to begin a national discussion and take a pulse on public sentiment surrounding the idea.

“I am ready to declare myself as the first national police chief to push for  casinos,” he is quoted in The Nation as saying. The Chief plans to retire at the end of September and will reportedly hold a press conference on the casino matter a month prior, to clarify his stance on the issue.

“I am not afraid of being slammed by groups of people and members of society, as I adhere to reality and well realize the Thai people’s gambling habit. Illegal and underground gambling activities flourish with (or without) legal casinos,” Somyot said.

According to NRC member and academic, Sungsidh Poriyarangsan, about 400 to 500 billion baht (US11.89bil to US14.86bil ) could be added to the Thailand economy annually if casinos were legalized.

When asked Wednesday about the subject, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-cha told media that the government had no official stand on the issue of casinos.
He asked in return, “You think Thai people could accept it?”

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