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Thailand’s Gaming Industry to Thrive amid Legalization and Global Interest

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In a groundbreaking move, Thailand is expected to legalize casino gambling within the next three years, triggering a rush of interest from both international and regional gaming operators.

Experts Analyze Thailand's Gaming Landscape

Experts believe that Thailand's regulatory landscape, the willingness of foreign operators to collaborate with local companies, and the government's approach to the industry will shape the future of the country's gaming sector.

"Thailand will do 'it', but the question is what the 'it' will look like," remarked James Kaplan, CEO of Destination Capital. He emphasized that Thailand has a unique opportunity to establish itself as a leading gaming jurisdiction globally.

Spectrum Gaming Group's Managing Director, Frederic Gushin, highlighted the potential for Thailand to replicate the success of the Philippines in the gaming sector. The country's status as a business hub and a popular tourist destination, coupled with domestic demand for gaming, positions Thailand for substantial growth.

Despite the favorable conditions, the path to legalization is not without challenges. Thailand's regulatory environment has faced criticism, with the country ranking 101st in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Additionally, opposition from various groups, including Buddhist clergy and underground casino stakeholders, along with political instability, presents hurdles for the industry's development.

Attracting Global Interest

International operators have expressed keen interest in entering the Thai market. Hard Rock International's Asia President, Edward Tracy, confirmed the company's strong interest in developing a multi-billion-dollar integrated resort in Thailand. Other major players, such as Las Vegas Sands and Galaxy Entertainment Group, are also eyeing the Thai market.

The passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a staunch casino opponent, in 2016 has shifted the landscape. Recent polls indicate that most Thais are open to casino legalization, a sentiment supported by the current king. This changing attitude has led to momentum for the legalization effort.

A parliamentary study proposed the establishment of up to five "entertainment complexes" like integrated resorts who will push the gambling market in Macau and Singapore. These complexes would encompass casinos, hotels, convention facilities, and more, potentially including sports betting and online gaming.

Thailand's robust tourism industry provides a compelling case for integrated resorts. With over 39.8 million visitors in 2019, including a significant number from China, there is a growing need to enhance the tourism offering and stimulate further economic growth.

Related: New Casino to be Built on Thailand’s Border with Myanmar.

Regulatory Considerations and Political Challenges

Experts suggest that adopting a regulatory structure like Singapore's could attract Western gaming companies while addressing concerns related to corruption and compliance. However, potential challenges arise from the need to align various vested interests within the Thai government and business community.

While Thailand's progress toward casino legalization gained momentum under the previous government, ongoing political uncertainties present potential obstacles. The recent exclusion of the Move Forward party from the government, despite winning the most seats in the parliamentary elections, adds complexity to the situation.

Despite these challenges, experts remain optimistic about Thailand's potential in the iGaming industry. With strategic planning, collaboration between international and local operators, and a well-crafted regulatory framework, Thailand could emerge as a major player in the global gaming landscape within the next few years.

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