Will Legalized Gambling Help Or Hurt Thailand?

On a March 3rd, 2008, talk show, the current Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej answered a question about gambling by saying it was time for Thailand to have its own casino.

His argument will be a hard sell. He insists that the casino should be built in tourist areas like Pattaya, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai and caters primarily to deep pocket tourists.

In the same breath, Mr. Samak says that this will help close down illegal gambling dens; “When gambling is legalized, there will be no longer the need for police to act on gambling dens,”

This is comparing apples to oranges. How does building a casino that is mainly for rich tourists provide a legal outlet for the local Thaïs?

Mr. Samak goes on to say, ”We can arrange zoning, or promote casinos that mainly serve foreign tourists, while setting certain limitations for Thai customers.”

Again, how will this prevent illegal gambling? It seems to that it will encourage illegal gambling even more.

Currently, if I am Thai, I have to either cross the border to Malaysia or Burma to gamble legally, or go to one of many illegal dens and take a chance of getting arrested when it gets raided.

If a new casino is built, most likely only the Thai elite will be able to go and gamble and your average Thai will face the same two choices noted above.

Seeing a legal casino in the country will entice other Thaïs to gamble despite not being able to go to the legal casino. So, more and more illegal gambling dens will pop up.

This is Thai logic. The Prime Minister is going to try to sell the Thai people the idea that legal gambling will curb gambling. Maybe he should legalize heroin to help the addicts.

In office as new Prime Minister for only one month, and already Mr. Samak is stirring the social mores pot. He will receive stiff opposition to legalizing gambling as did his predecessor, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Samak should be able to read the handwriting on the wall. The Thai people, gamblers all, would love a casino or two in Thailand. But, not catered to tourism. They want a casino they can call their own.

Attracting more lager louts, encouraging prostitution (although illegal), and offering tourists something that they do not want is insane. Tourists do not go to Thailand to gamble. There are plenty of other attractions to be seen in the Land of Smiles.

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