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Thailand: light at the end of the tunnel?

Ayvar Gabidullin
November 9, 2023
5 min
2732

Debates about gambling regulation in Thailand have continued for ages. The country has yet to fully legalize gambling, but Thai players aren’t waiting for the green light. Learn more in this article.

The land of the free

The Kingdom of Thailand, which was called Siam until 1939, is one of Southeast Asia’s hottest tourist destinations.

These are just some interesting facts about Thailand:

  • Thailand is called Prathet Thai in Thai, which means “land of the free”
  • Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world
  • Thailand is home to one-tenth of all animal species of the world and 1,500 species of orchids
  • The country has 1,430 islands
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Thailand is a long-standing constitutional monarchy. The country has experienced political changes, protests, and coups, but has maintained its independence since 1238. It comprises 76 provinces and 1 municipality, with a population of over 69 million people, concentrated mainly in Bangkok.

The Thai economy is growing, with GDP annual growth of 3.43% in 2023 and a share of the service sector of 56.18% in 2022, supported by a well-developed tourism infrastructure and successful tax reforms.

Is there gambling in Thailand?

At the moment, gambling in Thailand is partially legalized. The only legal forms of gambling are horse race betting and the national lottery, both of which are controlled by the government. However, there are plans to make changes to the current legislation.

In 2021, the Thai government, along with opposition parties, began discussing gambling regulation on a different level. The idea is that legal gambling venues in Thailand could provide some invaluable tax revenues. With tourism revenues drying up during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities revived the idea of using gambling to boost economic growth. A committee of 60 members, representing the cabinet and different parties, was formed to investigate this issue and analyze the pros and cons of implementing gambling regulation.

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Then, in 2022, a committee within the Thai National Assembly presented the results of a study on the potential effects of legalizing gambling in the form of integrated resorts in Thailand. The committee aims to establish multiple casino resorts across the country, including the greater Bangkok area, with a tax rate set at 30%.

Today, experts claim that Thailand plans to legalize casino gambling within the next three years, attracting interest from international and regional operators. However, there are factors that will shape the future of the industry.

Political issues could potentially delay the legalization process; Thailand currently ranks 101st in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Opposition to legalization comes from various groups, including the Buddhist clergy and underground casino operators, amidst ongoing political turmoil.

The form and structure of Thailand's legalized gambling industry will depend on regulatory decisions. Key considerations include the willingness of foreign operators to partner with Thai companies and the creation of a regulatory framework that meets global standards.

Thais don’t have to look very far abroad to see the potential benefits of legalization; when Singapore allowed two casino resorts in 2010, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, state budgets were raised by 14.5% in the first year, and by 6.3% in the next year. If Thailand adopts a regulatory model similar to Singapore's, attracting leading operators will not be a problem. Giants like Hard Rock International and Las Vegas Sands have already expressed interest in investing billions of dollars into Thailand's entertainment complexes. In this case, the goal of resuming tourism will be more than feasible.

How popular is gambling in Thailand?

On the one hand, Thais are deeply religious. Thailand is officially a Buddhist country, and while Buddhism doesn’t explicitly prohibit gambling, it is strongly against theft and fraud, which are normally associated with gambling. And gambling itself, while not prohibited, certainly isn’t encouraged.

But on the other hand, Thais definitely gamble.

According to a report from TGM Research conducted in 2022 18.3% of Thais participate in games of chance. Around 200 illegal gambling establishments were found in Thailand. Besides illegal underground casinos, Thais can also access offshore black market websites or travel to neighboring countries where gambling is regulated.

But locals are not the only audience: the Thai economy, especially the trade and service sectors, largely depends on tourism, which has been promoted since the 1980s. Aside from the massive numbers of tourists that visit the country in general, citizens of nearby Asian countries where gambling is prohibited, like China, are perfectly happy to travel for the sake of playing blackjack, roulette, Sic Bo, or Dragon Tiger.

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Considering the size of the population and number of tourists visiting the country every year, when Thailand opens its doors to gambling investors it will be a huge market with tremendous opportunities. We can assume that Thai players will prefer card games and sports betting, particularly football and cockfighting, and their gambling habits will be similar to their neighbors.

Thailand's casino industry has promise, but uncertainties remain. Overcoming challenges and establishing a favorable regulatory environment will determine its success in the global gaming landscape.

What can we do now?

Slotegrator offers professional advisory services and assistance with acquiring a gambling license for operators wishing to launch an online casino or sportsbook or enter a new gambling market with their project.

Arrange a free consultation with our sales team and discuss the best solution according to your plans and resources, whether it will be a complex online casino platform or sportsbook, or a stand-alone product like the highly popular Telegram Casino.

Ayvar Gabidullin
Ayvar Gabidullin
Business Development Manager
Ayvar has over five years of experience managing B2B and B2C sales departments in the online gambling industry. He started his career working in customer support for online casinos and grew to become the head of a department offering tailored services to VIP players. He joined Slotegrator with a strong focus on our company’s products and deep knowledge of what players need. His passion for the industry leads him to keep expanding his knowledge every day.

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