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 Plans for casinos and nuclear power

 Plans for casinos and nuclear power

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin used his first monthly television address on Saturday to promote plans for legalizing casinos to curb illegal gambling and building a nuclear power plant to reduce electricity costs.

Mr. Srettha explained that bringing gambling businesses under government control would address the issue of underground gambling, while a nuclear power plant would help alleviate public discontent over high energy bills due to its lower generation costs. “We have to admit that underground gambling is a serious problem and should be solved by legalizing it,” he said. “Nuclear power will need time to educate people because most do not want the plant in their neighborhood.”

A majority of the 500-member House of Representatives backed a study by a panel of lawmakers in March that favored setting up legalized casinos within large entertainment venues to attract high-spending tourists. The government estimates that these integrated entertainment complexes could generate total tax revenue of 12 billion baht (US$327 million) in their first year of operations.

The Finance Ministry plans to propose a draft bill to the cabinet within three to four weeks to legalize the gambling establishments, according to Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat. The ministry has gathered views from 16 related agencies, all of which agree that the casino complexes will boost the nation’s economic growth, he told the media on Wednesday.

While most types of betting are illegal in Thailand—a majority Buddhist society—the opening of casinos aligns with its recent moves to liberalize the tourism industry, which was hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2022, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis, although it is now moving to ban its recreational use. It also became the first in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriages after the senate approved the legislation last week.

Mr. Srettha also highlighted that nuclear power would help Thailand achieve its net zero carbon emission pledge.

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