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Thailand's Casino Initiative Advances at a Rapid Pace

Thailand's House of Representatives has given its approval for a study proposing the establishment of a legal casino industry in the country. This decision marks a significant step forward, with the plan now advancing to the cabinet for final approval.

The House vote witnessed overwhelming support, with 253 out of 257 lawmakers present voting in favor of progressing the study to its final phase.

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The initiative to legalize casinos is viewed by authorities as a strategy to boost tourism revenue while addressing the issue of illegal gambling dens proliferating across the nation. Additionally, there's an aim to curtail the number of Thai citizens engaging in casino gaming in neighboring countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos.

Related: Thailand Lawmakers Close to Deliberating Casino Legalization Effort

The proposed study recommends implementing a 17% tax on gross gaming revenue, positioning Thailand's tax regime among the lowest in the region. Local residents would likely be subject to an entry levy, although the exact amount remains undetermined. Casino licenses would initially be granted for a 20-year period, renewable every five years, with major casino complexes required to make a minimum investment of US$2.7 billion.

Industry analysts, such as Maybank Investment Bank's Samuel Yin Shao Yang, suggest that up to eight casino complexes could be developed under this plan.

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Political Heavyweights Show Their Support

There's no information on when the Thai Cabinet will discuss the topic. However, with several high-profile politicians getting behind the measure, it will likely move quickly.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has repeatedly expressed his support for the casino initiative, emphasizing its potential to combat the "grey economy," according to reports from The Bangkok Post. He reiterated his position in the House's Thursday meeting, and this will likely be a significant catalyst for the bill's forward trajectory.

Labor Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has also publicly endorsed the legalization of casinos, citing potential economic benefits such as the creation of up to 50,000 jobs nationwide. Phiphat envisions the establishment of five casinos across Thailand, ideally situated in secondary cities within each of the five regions. These locations should already offer tourist attractions, ample accommodation, and adequate infrastructure and transportation options. Songkhla and Chiang Rai are identified as potential candidates.

Phiphat, who previously served as the tourism and sports minister, stresses the importance of imposing stringent screening measures on casino visitors, including assessments of employment and income status.

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