A PROMINENT academic warned that there are both pros and cons to the proposal to open a legal casino in the country but this project should not be rushed and only implemented after effective law enforcement and reforms are in place, Naewna newspaper said this evening (Jan. 15).
On Thursday the House of Representatives approved a full report by a special committee on setting up a casino and entertainment complex in the country by a 310 to nine vote.
Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor were cited in the final report as suitable sites for the casino and entertainment complex but earlier Pattaya, Koh Samui and elsewhere in the provinces were also mentioned.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anusorn Tamajai, director of Pridi Banomyong International College, Thammasat University, said while at least 50 billion baht a year is flowing out of the country mainly to casinos in neighbouring countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore with this leading to the state losing revenue, a casino within the country could turn into a haven for criminals who would use it to launder money and it could also lead to other forms of illicit businesses.
He added that the strategy of opening a casino in Thailand in the hope of drawing foreign tourists to gamble here so that money flows in instead of flowing out may not work as expected because gamblers usually go to casinos they play regularly such as those in Macau, Singapore and Cambodia among others.
A good example is Macau which has a large gambling industry that used to rake in up to US$45 billion a year but the social cost jumped from $40 million to $106 million.
“Macao’s criminal cases increased by 52%, gambling-related crime increased by 37%, and the problem of gambling addiction that affects life increased by 4.3% between 2003 and 2007.
“However, the negative impact of a legal casino is far less in Singapore because there is a good law enforcement system and a system of screening and deterring locals and non-eligible foreign tourists from accessing casino gambling.” Dr. Anusorn said.
At the same time the large income from casinos helps Macau and Singapore provide better social welfare for the people so casino revenue can have a positive effect on short-term fiscal status, he said, but warned that there would be long-term consequences if regulations and law-enforcement are inadequate.
There would be large expenditure in pursuing and resolving negative social and family institutional impacts.
In his opinion the opening of a comprehensive entertainment with a casino in it would only be worthwhile if strict policies and regulations are in place including age limits, income level limits, measures to prevent money laundering and crime prevention.
Once casino revenue starts rolling in it should be used to develop the society and fund a campaign against gambling similar to sin taxes from liquor and tobacco being so used.
“If you do not believe that the Thai society is ready as mentioned, it is not appropriate to establish a legal casino in Thailand. A comprehensive entertainment complex without a casino should be launched, ” Dr. Anusorn said.
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Insert and Front Page: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anusorn Tamajai. Photos: Naewna