Thailand wants casinos to milk tourists

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After COVID-19 left Thailand in a state of extremely low cash flow, a campaign began to make casinos legal in the country in an attempt to catch up on much-needed funds. Casinos is how world-famous gambling mecca Las Vegas was built. Sure, once in a while someone wins some money, otherwise nobody would come back. But for the most part, the house always wins. That extrapolates into money pouring in for the city on a constant basis.

Casinos were outlawed in Thailand in 1935 with the Gambling Act. One could not even own more than 120 playing cards under the Playing Cards Act unless s/he had approval to do so from the government. Despite all that, there is still illegal gambling in casinos in Bangkok and other towns. But as soon as next year, parliament could pass new legislation to amend or replace this law and make it legal to open casinos.

Thai culture, which is steeped in Buddhism, frowns on gambling as it is seen as one of the 4 that lead to ruin.

In Thai this is known as abaiyamuk – the “portals of hell.”

Gambling is something that should be avoided if a person wants to live a life free from suffering. In fact, an old Thai proverb states: “Ten lost to fire is not equivalent to one lost in gambling.”

Along with the disdain for gambling, Thais embrace gambling in certain circumstances. For instance, gambling is often done at funerals in order to keep the deceased company. And Thais often gamble during ceremonies and festivals, while horse race betting is perfectly legal as is the Thai lottery – sponsored by the Thailand government. This love-hate relationship with gambling makes for conflicted social issues from addiction to violent crime.

Still, gambling remains big in Thailand. In past surveys, it has been shown that almost 60% of Thais partake in some form of gambling whether it be through playing poker or betting on sports. In 2014 one of those surveys revealed that close to 43 billion baht was wagered in Thailand just on the World Cup. This is the same as close to US$1.2 billion in wagers just on a single event. If the government had been involved, that would have amounted to quite a sizeable chunk of money for Thailand’s government coffers. Perhaps legalized gambling should be given a serious look once again as a mean to bringing the country back from financial duress.

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