Sommai Phasee, the finance minister in Thailand’s military government, has given conditional support to the idea of having a casino industry in the country, provided such facilities were in each case part of a tourism resort with shopping, entertainment and a convention centre, reports The Nation newspaper.
It follows reports last week in the same newspaper that a minority group on Thailand’s National Reform Council (NRC) was in favour of introducing casinos – possibly in Thailand’s beach resort Pattaya, 147 kilometres (91.3 miles) southeast of the capital Bangkok.
According to the latest story in the media outlet, the minister said such facilities would be best operated through the “meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions” format where visitors and families could use the various services, including casinos, to “relax themselves”.
He said there could be ways to prevent “poor people” from entering the casinos, and cited the SGD200 (US$150) charge per 24-hour period imposed in Singapore on its citizens and permanent residents for entry to casinos there.
But the minister stated according to the newspaper: “I disagree with the idea of permitting casinos and gambling dens [everywhere].”
He added: “It’s better not to let our people punt and spend elsewhere [outside Thailand],” saying he did not agree with permits for casinos being made available for the general public.
The Nation report quoted Mr Phasee denying other media reports that he was arranging for executives of the U.S.-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp to meet with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Las Vegas Sands has been linked in local media reports with an old railway depot site in Bangkok for a possible development were casinos to be legalised in the country.
A body called the Political Development Council – which in principle opposes the use of the military to head an unelected government – issued a statement on Monday opposing the proposal for casinos in the southeast Asian kingdom.
The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that 58 percent of 1,093 people aged 18 and over – that were polled across the country by Bangkok University on June 17 and 18 – were opposed to legalising casinos in the country.
But The Nation newspaper reported Royal Thai Police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung saying he did not care about poll results that reflected opposition from the public to the casino idea. The number of respondents was too small and results of surveys from across the country should reflect a true opinion of the public, he claimed.
The police chief said he would shortly issue a map showing as many as 30 of what he referred to as “gambling dens” – i.e. border casinos in neighbouring countries – that serve Thai customers.
Thailand has had two military coups in eight years, and 12 since 1932. In 2006, the army overthrew the elected caretaker government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In May 2014, the military ousted the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
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