|Thailand's national police chief on Tuesday lent his support to a long-standing proposal to legalize casinos as a way of boosting tourism and revenues for the government. |
'I strongly support the legalization of casinos because we can save billions of baht (millions of dollars) that flow from the country every year,' national police chief Gen. Sant Sarutanond told reporters, referring to Thais who travel abroad to gamble.
He said the casinos should be aimed at tourists, positioning them in locations such as hotels and amusement parks.
However, Sant said that while he endorses the legalization of casinos, he will continue to take a hard line against Thailand’s widespread illegal gambling dens.
Plans to legalize casinos in Thailand have been proposed by successive governments in the past 15 years, but have always foundered against strong opposition. Praman Adireksan, an interior minister in the late 1980s, met with strong criticism when he pushed for the idea.
Since then, ministers have considered proposals for casinos to try to take the billions of baht wagered by Thais at gambling halls along the country's borders, particularly in Cambodia and Myanmar.
Although most gambling is illegal in Thailand, it is tolerated and widespread, despite warnings from police that those arrested on gambling charges could face up to three months in jail.
Researchers at Bangkok's Assumption University estimated earlier this year that Thai gamblers would wager 9.1 billion baht ($217 million) on World Cup matches.