All bets are off: Hua Hin not a contender in Thailand’s proposed casino plans

File photo

Thailand is moving forward with plans to legalize casinos as part of broader entertainment zones aimed at bolstering state revenue and enhancing its standing as a premier tourism hub, according to government spokesman Chai Wacharonke.

However, these ambitious plans are unlikely to include Hua Hin or its surrounding areas as potential sites for these developments.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has instructed an expedited study on comprehensive entertainment venues, which are expected to bring in significant tax revenue. The government estimates first-year tax revenue from these venues could reach at least 12 billion baht. This directive came after a recent Cabinet meeting, where the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of moving swiftly on this initiative.

“The Prime Minister has ordered the Cabinet to follow up on the implementation of comprehensive entertainment venues,” said Chai Wacharonke, spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office. “He directed the Ministry of Finance to have Deputy Minister Julaphan Amornwiwat conduct a detailed study and expedite the implementation of these venues to develop concrete operational guidelines.”

The Ministry of Finance has been tasked with drafting the Entertainment Complex Act, which will incorporate input from relevant agencies. This draft will be presented to the Cabinet for further consideration, in accordance with the constitutional legislative process.

The government sees significant potential in the entertainment complex sector. In 2022, the global entertainment complex industry was valued at approximately 1.5 trillion USD, or around 54 trillion baht. By 2028, this figure is projected to grow to 2.2 trillion USD, or about 79 trillion baht.

Currently, the largest entertainment complex market is in Macau, which, despite having a population of just 690,000, generates business worth 32 billion USD, nearly 1.2 trillion baht. This is followed by Las Vegas with 30 billion USD, Singapore with 12 billion USD, South Korea with 320 billion USD, the Philippines with 210 billion USD, Vietnam with 180 billion USD, and Indonesia with 180 billion USD. In stark contrast, Thailand has zero baht from this sector.

Mr. Chai Wacharonke, Spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office. File photo

Chai Wacharonke emphasized the urgency for Thailand to enter this market to compete with neighboring countries. “Neighboring Asian countries are far ahead in this regard,” he noted. “Additionally, Japan plans to establish three entertainment complexes soon in Osaka, Nagasaki, and Fukuoka. Thailand needs to act swiftly if it wants to generate revenue from this sector.”

The commission has preliminarily calculated that if an entertainment complex is established in Thailand, it could generate substantial income, with the potential to collect no less than 12 billion baht in taxes in the first year.

The proposed locations for these entertainment complexes include:

  • Northern Region: Chiang Mai province
  • Central Region: Pattaya City, part of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) area
  • Southern Region: Phuket
  • Bangkok and surrounding metropolitan areas (two locations)

The trial is expected to open in one province per region, offering all forms of gambling, including local and international types, as well as online gambling. The minimum age for entry will be 20 years. Individuals must show their financial status before being allowed to use the services, and civil servants are prohibited from entering except with a permit.

Hua Hin not a likely candidate

Hua Hin from Hin Lek Fai. Hua Hin Today

Despite the broad interest in establishing these entertainment complexes, Hua Hin and its surrounding areas are not seen as likely candidates for these developments. The focus appears to be on regions that already have a significant influx of tourists and infrastructure that can support such large-scale operations.

The regions of Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and Bangkok are deemed more suitable due to their existing tourism infrastructure and greater capacity to handle the expected influx of visitors.

The issue of legal casinos in Thailand has been a topic of debate and criticism for years. Efforts to push this matter at the policy level have often faced opposition due to concerns about social impacts and the potential for increased gambling addiction.

However, proponents argue that legalizing and regulating casinos could bring significant economic benefits and help position Thailand as a major player in the global entertainment complex market.