MGM Resorts Confirms Thailand Casino Investment Interest

MGM Resorts International appears to be inching closer to a potential foray into the Thailand casino market. Its Asian subsidiary, MGM China, has reportedly initiated discussions with Thai authorities that would seem to indicate strong interest in some type of investment in the country.

The Wat Arun, Bangkok temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. (Source: Wikipedia)

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The Bangkok Post recently reported a meeting between Pansy Ho, the executive director and chair of MGM China, and Thapanee Kiatphaibool, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The nature of the discussions remains undisclosed, but the Bangkok Post did reference Thapanee stating the TAT's intention to collaborate with MGM on enhancing Thailand's tourism competitiveness.

. Related: 'Urgent' Study of Casinos in Thailand Set to Begin

This collaboration could involve the development of new tourism products, including "man-made attractions." These attractions would presumably complement existing tourist destinations and activities throughout the year, potentially creating a more year-round tourism draw for Thailand.

This news comes amidst growing speculation about the potential legalization of casinos in Thailand. The Thai government has been mulling the possibility for several years, with some analysts suggesting the first casino hotels could open their doors by 2029. This potential shift in policy has undoubtedly piqued the interest of major casino operators worldwide, including MGM Resorts.

Bill Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts, expressed his interest in the Thai market during the company's recent first-quarter 2024 earnings call. While acknowledging that the decision ultimately rests with the Thai government, Hornbuckle described Thailand as an "interesting" prospect. He further noted that the potential returns from a Thai casino market would be "compelling."

While the meeting between MGM China and the TAT doesn't definitively confirm MGM Resorts' commitment to the Thai market, it confirms the company is actively exploring the possibilities. The coming months could see further developments as discussions between MGM and Thai authorities continue, potentially shedding more light on the company's plans and the future of casino legalization in Thailand.

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Thai Expansion Hinges on Regulations

MGM Resorts isn't the only major casino operator eyeing Thailand. Las Vegas Sands, another industry giant, has also publicly expressed its interest in the market. Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein, during his company's first-quarter 2024 earnings call, acknowledged the possibility of a Thai casino opening ahead of their planned MGM Osaka project in Japan, which is slated for a 2030 opening.

The potential entry of MGM Resorts and other major casino operators into Thailand could significantly alter the country's tourism landscape. Proponents of casino legalization argue that it would attract high-spending tourists and boost the national economy.

However, critics raise concerns about potential social issues like gambling addiction and increased money laundering. The Thai government will undoubtedly face pressure to weigh these potential benefits and drawbacks as they move forward with their deliberations on casino legalization.

There have also been concerns that US operators may back away from Thailand. This is based on a review of draft regulations, which some believe may be too stringent to attract the larger players.


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