The Stop Gambling Foundation (SGF) has warned that legalising casinos will not stamp out illegal gambling and may cause more social problems in Thailand.
Yesterday, Thanakorn Komkris, secretary of the SGF, said the government should be more careful about the idea of opening legal gambling venues in Thailand to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and boost income to the state, as its impact on society such as crime and family problems could outweigh the benefits.
“Legalising gambling is not straightforward. Legal casinos need rigorous standards and require supervision and regulation. When a gambling den is brought in line with such standards, some people will be denied access. As a result, they will return to illegal venues”.
“Thailand might end up having both legal and illegal gambling dens which would be worse than now,” he said.
For example, cockfighting and bullfighting dens have already been legalised, but there are still many illegal events held across the country, Mr Komkris said.
The anti-gambling activist said people who are pushing for the legalisation of gambling are naive to believe that illegal gambling dens will be eradicated overnight.
Mr Komkris proposed the government set up a “Gambling Problem Management Centre”, which would consist of law enforcement agencies, economic development agencies, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, to study the issue.
Witthayakorn Chiangkul, dean of the College of Social Innovation at Rangsit University, also urged the government to carefully study the pros and cons.
Thailand, he said, should follow the model in developed countries where there are specific committees to regulate the gambling industry, health programmes for pathological gamblers and remedial measures for those affected by problems associated with legalised gambling.
“Legal gambling dens must not only focus on making profits. They need to be regulated strictly. Moreover, they should only be allowed to open in certain areas such as tourist hotspots, not nationwide,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sanyakorn Singhaweratham, deputy spokesman of Kla Party, has defended his party’s support of the idea. Mr Singhaweratham said the intention was to make gambling’s impact on society as minimal as possible.
By being brought under state control, tax from legalisation could be spent for the public good rather than lining the pockets of the mafia. “Ninety per cent of gamblers in casinos in neighbouring countries are Thais. More than 40 billion baht flows out of Thailand to these casinos each year,” he said.
Korn Chatikavanij, the party’s leader, earlier said the legalisation could help eradicate illegal dens through competition, as well as lure Thai gamblers back from overseas casinos and generate revenue for the government.