Seaport Research Senior Analyst Vitaly Umansky has raised concerns that Thailand’s nascent casino regulations might not be robust enough to attract major operators from the United States. In a note published on Friday, Umansky evaluated the potential for US-based Wynn Resorts to enter the Thai market, suggesting that the current regulatory environment is not yet conducive to such involvement.

“This market is too early in the process to gauge if Wynn could eventually be involved, but at present, our thinking on Thailand is that the market will not be ready for the US-regulated operators to be involved,” Umansky stated, according to Inside Asian Gaming.

Wynn Resorts, along with other prominent US operators such as MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands (LVS), have shown interest in Thailand. However, their public comments about the country’s casino prospects have been cautious, particularly regarding the quality and strength of the emerging legislation.

During LVS’s first-quarter 2024 earnings call, Chairman and CEO Robert Goldstein described Thailand as a “very, very exciting market” but emphasized that it is still early in the development process. “It’s early days … we still have work to do with the numbers and understanding it,” Goldstein remarked.

While Wynn has shown interest in the Thai market, it is currently advancing its integrated resort development in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. The Wynn Al-Marjan, expected to open in early 2027, will be the region’s only casino. Umansky noted that this UAE property could potentially generate $300 million in annual cash flow for Wynn but cautioned that additional casino developments could affect this projection.

“We see the market being able to handle two integrated resorts,” he explained. “The key risk to the property would be a casino opening in Dubai (vs in Abu Dhabi which is more likely).”

MGM Resorts has also shown interest in Dubai, where it is developing three hotel brands. However, MGM has indicated that Abu Dhabi could be an alternative location should Dubai decide against permitting gaming.

Thailand Legislation Still Uncertain

In Thailand, the timeline for introducing legal casino gaming appears to be lengthy. The country’s initial economic corridors with legal casino gaming might not open until 2029. Up to eight integrated casino resorts could be developed if a study passed by the House of Representatives gains final cabinet approval.

Maybank Investment Bank has identified the Eastern Economic Corridor as the most probable site for Thailand’s first legal casinos. The development period could span around five years, assuming integrated resort bids receive approval within the current year. This timeline suggests that Thailand’s first casino could commence operations before or around the same time as MGM Resorts International’s $10 billion integrated resort in Osaka, Japan, which is scheduled to open in 2030.

As the Thai government continues to deliberate on casino regulations, the cautious stance of US operators highlights the importance of robust legislative frameworks for attracting foreign investment. Without strong regulations, Thailand may struggle to entice major US casino companies to its burgeoning gaming market.