Could boost tourist spending by 52%

Thailand could boost tourism revenue by $12 billion through legalizing casinos, study suggests

Reading time 1:52 min

Thailand could significantly boost its tourism revenue by about $12 billion through the legalization of casinos housed within large entertainment complexes, according to a recent study. 

Conducted by a panel of lawmakers, the study proposes that the legalization of casinos within these entertainment hubs could potentially elevate average tourist expenditures by 52%, reaching 65,050 baht ($1,790) per trip, Bloomberg reported.

This surge could translate into additional earnings of up to 448.8 billion baht ($12.3 billion). Furthermore, the report suggests that such an economic boost could augment the country’s gross domestic product growth by 1.16 percentage points.

In response to the study's findings, the House of Representatives may move forward with a bill aimed at legalizing casinos and other forms of gambling. Notably, the panel of lawmakers, led by Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat, has also recommended various measures to prevent the development of gambling addiction among Thai citizens.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's support for the initiative, aligned with his proactive stance on policies to attract foreign direct investment, could potentially facilitate the bill's passage through parliamentary proceedings. Several prominent operators in the sector, including Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd and MGM Resorts International, have expressed interest in exploring the possibility of establishing casino resorts in Thailand, potentially diversifying their investments amidst uncertainties in Macau.

Julapun Amornvivat elucidated that proposed entertainment complexes, situated in designated areas, would not only incorporate casinos but also feature five-star hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions. 

The goal is to establish a comprehensive entertainment venue and to promote tourism in a new way to increase income for the country and solve the problem of illegal gambling,” Julapun was quoted as saying in the report.

Despite Thailand's predominantly Buddhist and conservative societal fabric, where most forms of betting are presently illegal, the prospective legalization of casinos aligns with the country's recent endeavors to adopt a more liberal framework to reinvigorate its tourism sector in the wake of the pandemic.

Notably, in 2022, Thailand marked a significant milestone by becoming the first Asian nation to decriminalize cannabis. However, it now seeks to prohibit its recreational use. Additionally, Thailand is poised to become the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriages.

The study underscores the potential economic gains for Thailand within the context of the burgeoning global fun economy industry, estimated to be worth around $13.7 trillion. The integrated entertainment venue sector alone is projected to expand from $1.5 trillion in 2022 to $2.2 trillion within four years.

Drawing parallels with neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam, Thailand could harness substantial tax revenues and tourism income by successfully establishing such facilities.

Thailand, renowned for its pristine beaches, Buddhist temples, and national parks, has set an ambitious target to double foreign tourist arrivals to 80 million by 2027. The tourism industry presently contributes approximately 12% to the nation's $500 billion economy, the report said.

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