Thailand could pass the necessary enabling legislation for casino resorts in as early as the next 12 months, and at least one resort could open as soon as 2030, suggests Udorn Olsson, a former MP from that nation and adviser to a Thailand parliamentary committee mulling the legalisation of casino business. He was speaking in an interview with GGRAsia, at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore.
Were a 2030 opening come to pass, it could put Thailand on a schedule to launch an integrated resort (IR) with casino at around the same time as Osaka in Japan.
As in Japan, Mr Olsson said Thailand was aiming at “the Singapore model” in terms of the detail of regulation of such business, including a fee to be paid if locals want to go gambling in local casinos. In Thailand’s case, the proposal is THB1,000 (about US$29) for one day’s use, with an annual permit also possible. Such local players would also need to prove they were economically qualified to gamble, and would also be checked to make sure they had no criminal record, he stated.
Legislation could be passed in “a year or two… I think one year,” he told GGRAsia in the Tuesday interview.
Mr Olson pointed out that legal gaming was “nothing new” in Thailand, with legislation already covering some forms of betting. “Thailand has already allowed to gambling, for example… Thai boxing,” he stated.
In December, a Thai MP had suggested it could be three years before Thailand passed enabling legislation for casino resorts.
Lower tax rate for VIP play mulled
Thailand held a national election on May 14, and by the time this story went online the country was still in the process of forming a coalition government.
Mr Olsson told GGRAsia: “If the new government wants to set up some committee or some team to look… or look again, re-read again” the report already submitted to parliament about casino legalisation in Thailand, “maybe they [the new government] can add some [legal] points, they can reduce some points.”
He added: “After that, the ministry of the interior can change the law.” Asked by GGRAsia if that meant amending an existing law rather than creating a new one, he stated: “A sitting [existing] law.”
In terms of the length of time for tenders from would-be operators to be accepted and assessed, Mr Olsson stated: “I think… not more than three years… [and] three years to build.” Asked if that meant the first such resort could open by 2030, he stated: “Yes.”
Mr Olsson said the recommendation currently was to permit up to five resorts, including at least one in Bangkok and what is termed in that country as the “economic corridor” surrounding the capital.
Depending on the location, such projects would be classified as ‘large’ scale, ‘medium’ or ‘small’. The upper amount of investment in each case would be US$8 billion, US$2 billion, and US$500 million, Mr Olsson reiterated.
Asked about the timing of the casino proposal, he mentioned the need for economic stimulus after three years of pandemic-related downturn in Thailand’s inbound tourism market.
In pre-Covid-19 trading, Thailand had “40 percent of its income – GDP [gross domestic product] – from the tourist industry… during Covid we were only at 2 percent,” Mr Olsson stated. Tourism is “approximately 8 percent” of GDP currently, so “we still have a long way to recover,” he added.
In terms of taxation on gambling on such resorts, “we are thinking about 30 percent”. He clarified that referred to tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR) and for mass-market play. For VIP gambling, “we are talking about 18 percent” GGR tax rate. Corporate tax on operators is also being looked at, though the idea of having a corporate tax regime but waiving it initially for investors is worthy of consideration, said Mr Olsson.
The topic of how or whether sales tax might be levied on any resort services was not clarified in GGRAsia’s discussion with Mr Olsson.
The Thai parliament set up in 2021 the “Ad-hoc Committee on the Consideration of the Opening of Entertainment Complex, the Collection of Revenue and Taxes from the Legal Casino, the Prevention and the Solution of Illegal Gambling, the Widespread of Electric Gambling Machines, and the Online Gambling”.
In July 2022, the parliamentary committee submitted a report to the National Assembly, exploring the introduction of casino resorts in Thailand. It recommended the government allowing “entertainment complexes” – that include legal casinos – to be set up at a number of yet-to-be-designated areas across the country.
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