Phuket Opinion: Gambling on a better Phuket future?
PHUKET: Dhanin Chearavanont is not the first person to advocate the legalisation of casinos in Thailand, but as Thailand’s richest man, he is certainly the most prominent so far. He has a valid point.
Thursday 16 August 2012, 03:59PM
In Thailand there are few legal avenues for gambling. Illegal gambling, on the other hand, is massive, with the numbers racket a feature of every village in the land, along with gambling on soccer and other sports.
And there are casinos, ranging from temporary affairs staged in the forest to large, full-on operations behind closed doors and protected from legal interference by corrupt politicians and police.
All of this underground gambling is, of course, uncontrollable. It’s run or supported by some of the nastiest people in the country – “influential” figures, gangsters and corrupt politicians.
It is attended by the whole panoply of grief brought by loan sharks who are quite ready, as we saw last week, to beat up non-payers, or their guarantors, or rape their relatives in order to enforce payment of their outrageous interest rate.
Government in other countries have realised that while illegal gambling is impossible to control, legalising it makes it more controllable and – better yet – creates a river of tax revenue.
The big question in Thailand is whether the country has the enforcement infrastructure to prevent any legal casino system being perverted by powerful and corrupt people.
One expert, Allan Zeman, major investor in Phuket and a director of Wynn Resorts, which has one of the biggest casinos in Macau, doesn’t think so.
He said recently, “[Gambling] attracts a lot of undesirable elements. It’s something that needs controlling; I’m not sure that you can control it at this stage in Thailand. They need to clean up their act first. At this time it’s better if they don’t have gambling.”
The Phuket News agrees. Do you?