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Thailand Lawmakers Close to Deliberating Casino Legalization Effort

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Thailand's lawmakers are poised to take a significant step towards legalizing casinos in the country. The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate a bill on March 28 that could pave the way for the establishment of integrated resorts (IRs) featuring casino facilities, according to reports from local media outlet The Nation, citing remarks made by Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat.

Boosting the Eastern Economic Corridor

This development comes after a government-appointed committee, comprised of 60 members, conducted a comprehensive study on the feasibility of legalizing casino gambling in Thailand. The committee's findings, which are expected to be reflected in the bill, reportedly propose a geographically diverse approach to IR development. While Bangkok, the bustling capital city, is excluded as a potential location, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) – encompassing popular tourist destinations like Pattaya and Rayong – is seen as a favorable area.

The proposed model emphasizes the creation of holistic entertainment complexes, with casinos playing a relatively minor role. The committee reportedly recommends that casino space should be restricted to a maximum of 5% of the total IR floor area.

The remaining space would be dedicated to a variety of attractions designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of visitors. These could include luxury hotels, high-end shopping malls, spas and wellness centers, amusement parks, zoos and even indoor and outdoor sports facilities.

Proponents of the bill believe this integrated approach will generate substantial revenue through casinos. They believe that it will also significantly boost tourism and create jobs across various sectors of the economy.

No Clear Path for Approval

The legalization of casinos remains a contentious issue in Thailand. Opponents argue that it could exacerbate social problems like gambling addiction and money laundering. Cultural and religious concerns have also been voiced, with some Thais expressing a desire to preserve the country's traditional values.

The potential environmental impact of large-scale IR developments is another point of contention. The upcoming debate in the House of Representatives is likely to be lively, with both sides presenting their arguments for and against the legalization of casinos.

The outcome of the debate will be closely watched by investors and tourism industry representatives. If the bill is passed, Thailand would join a growing number of Southeast Asian nations that have legalized casino gambling in recent years and could continue to allow Southeast Asia to grow as a formidable gambling hub.

The bill, if passed by the House, would then be forwarded to the Thai Cabinet for final approval.

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