Thailand is gearing up to join the integrated resort (IR) revolution, with a study by the government’s IR committee concluding that the move could help it keep its place as a leading tourism destination in the region. Senior Gaming Executive Daniel Cheng revealed where the IRs could be located, the level of investment required, and likely rules for locals.
The idea of a casino in Thailand was first raised over 15 years ago by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, around the same time as Japan and Singapore also proposed casino legislation. However, the proposal didn’t receive approval from the Royal Palace, as all laws in the Thai legislature have to be approved by royal decree.
But things have changed. Thailand welcomed over 40 million tourists before the pandemic, with most being international visitors, and is already an established tourism destination. The country has software and hardware already in place, and the current prime minister is a royalist, making the legislation more likely to be approved.
The study identified three zones where IRs could be built: the precinct of greater Bangkok, the Eastern Economic Corridor (Chonburi), and 22 provinces that are within a 100km radius of an airport. The government wants to spread the economic benefits to the rural areas as well.
The committee did not put a number on how many resorts there will be, but initially, there could be up to five IRs. Industry insiders are hoping for the IR to be in Bangkok, but the government is considering locations based on their suitability and industry interest.
The study recommended that the starting model be small, medium, and large categories of IR, with a minimum investment of $30 million for small, $300-$600 million for medium, and $3 billion for large. No discussion has yet taken place on whether there will be a differentiation for smaller-size casinos in terms of who can gamble, but it is likely that a universal rule will be set.
The move to legalize IRs in Thailand is aimed at eliminating the outflow of money by gamblers to other countries, mitigating the operation of underground casinos, and creating job opportunities. The committee, comprising 60 lawmakers, including 15 cabinet ministers, was made up of politicians from all political parties, ensuring bipartisan support.
Thailand’s IR revolution is set to begin after the elections, which are scheduled for mid-May. The IR committee’s study is encouraging the industry that IRs are going to happen, regardless of which party takes power. Thailand hopes that by joining the IR race, it will become the tourism leader in the region and boost economic rejuvenation.