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Thailand Explores Legalizing Gaming to Boost Economy

Fredric Gushin, President, and CEO of Spectrum Gaming Group, has shed light on the increasing interest of Thai government officials in the successful economic models of Singapore and the Philippines within the gaming industry. Gushin has emphasized that Thai officials are now actively considering the potential benefits of legalizing gaming within their country, with the aim of replicating the economic successes witnessed in their Southeast Asian neighbors.

Thailand Explores Legalizing Gaming to Boost Economy

In an interview with AGB, Gushin provided valuable insights into the prospects of gaming legalization in Thailand, highlighting the nation's desire to catch up with neighboring countries that have embraced the gaming and casino sector, despite sharing the Buddhist faith. He noted, "Thailand is being left behind by its neighbors, such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, which all host casinos despite also being Buddhist countries."

One key motivation behind this shift in perspective is the prevalence of illegal gambling in Thailand, which has operated largely unchecked for many years. Some Thai government officials see this as an opportune moment to bring these activities under regulation and generate much-needed revenue. Additionally, the imperative to revitalize Thailand's economy, particularly in light of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a significant driver for considering gaming legalization.

Thailand recently implemented a visa exemption policy targeting Chinese and Indian tourists, a response to a noticeable decline in tourist arrivals during the first seven months of the year. This policy aims to attract a higher number of tourists to the country, a potential boon to the economy.

Gushin noted that discussions surrounding gaming legalization in Thailand have persisted for years, with previous initiatives in 2002/2003 and 2008/2009. However, he believes that the economic challenges facing the country, along with the existence of border casinos in neighboring nations that cater to Thai players, have created a compelling case for giving serious consideration to gaming legalization.

To explore the prospects of gaming legalization, Thailand established a Gaming Committee within the Parliament last year. Gushin pointed out that there appears to be support from multiple political parties for this initiative. He also highlighted that the recent election and the formation of a new government have provided a formal context for considering gaming legalization.

Regarding the segments of the gaming industry that could thrive in Thailand, Gushin anticipates that land-based casinos, particularly integrated resorts, would be well-positioned for success. He observed that illegal or gray-area online gaming and sports betting are already taking place in Thailand. Therefore, he emphasized the importance of the government's consideration of legalizing and regulating these segments, which can generate significant tax revenue and offer consumer protection.

When it comes to regulation, Gushin underscored the critical factors, including transparency, licensing, and identifying beneficial ownership within the gaming industry. He also emphasized the need for robust anti-money laundering controls to address the risks associated with legalized gaming. Furthermore, he highlighted the importance of developing or overseeing effective socially responsible gaming programs. Gushin cited Singapore's regulatory model as a successful example and suggested that Thailand could adopt some of its principles.

However, Gushin acknowledged that Thailand's approach to gaming legalization would differ from Singapore's, taking into account Thailand's size and the potential for online gaming. He stressed that government commitment to effectively enforce regulations would be crucial.

In conclusion, Gushin outlined the potential advantages and challenges associated with gaming legalization in Thailand. The advantages encompass attracting significant investment, boosting the entertainment and hospitality sectors, increasing tax revenues, and creating well-paying jobs. Conversely, challenges include the attraction of operators aligned with regulatory goals, effective management of the emerging industry, curbing illegal casinos, and implementing necessary controls and regulations.

Gushin encouraged potential investors to evaluate opportunities in Thailand's gaming industry based on the eventual gaming laws and standards set by the Thai government. He firmly believes that Thailand possesses the potential to become a major player in the Asian gaming sector and that this opportunity represents a unique once-in-a-generation chance for the country.

As Thailand embarks on the journey toward gaming legalization, Gushin's insights underscore the significance of "Government Will" in determining its success and potential to become one of the world's most successful gaming destinations.



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