Thai politicians back legalized gambling
By Paul
Almost 100 Members of Thailand’s parliament have signed a petition supporting the legalization of casinos in the South east Asian country.

Parliament is studying the impact of legalizing casino gambling, with Siri Wangboonkert, TRT MP for Bangkok, and Pinit Chantharasomboon, TRT list MP, the leading figures behind the proposal.

Siri said he had proposed it to the Thai Parliament in April last year, but had suspended the attempt due to public criticism.

After canvassing fellow MPs for support, he re-submitted the proposal to the House financial and banking committee with the signatures of 87 Thai Rak Thai MPs who supported it.

A parliamentary sub-committee headed by Vithaya Buranasiri, Thai Rak Thai MP for Ayutthaya was formed to examine the proposal, and visits to casinos in Greece, Hungary and Poland were arranged. Last Friday the committee toured Poipet in Cambodia, where about six casinos are operating, and held a meeting in the adjacent province of Sa Kaeo.

Vithaya said the House needed to know both advantages and disadvantages of domestic casinos.

``Advantages are obvious in terms of income and economic stimulation but we need to know if there is any adverse impact on local communities such as crime,'' he said.

Sa Kaeo governor Somchai Chumrat reported that about 500,000 Thai people visited casinos in Poipet annually and most of them were people from other provinces, especially Bangkok. Only one in 10 was from Sa Kaeo.

He said it was difficult to prevent Thais from crossing the border and losing money at the casinos. Although the currency exchange law limits the sum a Thai tourist may take out of the country to 500,000 baht ($12412), gamblers have their money transferred across the border in advance.

Praphan Buasri, a member of the Sa Kaeo chamber of commerce, said local casinos would increase employment and national income through taxation, and reduce the outflow of currency from the country.

Burin Hirunburana, chairman of the House financial and banking committee, noted that his committee was not promoting people to become addicted to gambling but introducing the activity as a recreation.

``We are not promoting gambling dens but casinos that will welcome only people with high income.

His sub-committee plans casinos in major tourism locations such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Hat Yai. They will be aimed at boosting foreign tourists' spending.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said last week that local casinos were part of the underground businesses that his government planned to bring into the mainstream economy to boost national income.

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