Is Thailand on the Verge of Becoming Asia’s Newest Destination for Casinos?

Thailand at Poker Dream Vietnam

Poker in Thailand has been a tricky topic in the last few years. While all sorts of gambling are not really considered legal, underground poker cash games have been running for a while and some Thai pros traveled the Asia-Pacific and global circuit to make a name for themselves. Most notably, that have been Punnat Punsri and Kannapong Thanarattrakul in the Triton Poker high-stakes series as well as the Asian Poker Tour.

Furthermore, especially the south of Thailand has become a favorite spot for expat poker players to relocate and settle down in order to join the online action. Stunning beaches, a favorable climate and the lower cost of living made things very attractive near Phuket and Rawai in particular.

All these circumstances were made even better by a thriving live poker scene in the region since the  main effects of the global coronavirus pandemic have all but subsided. The U Series of Poker, APT, Poker Dream, and the already established PokerStars LIVE Manila also vying for a piece of the live poker pool.

Various other regional series in Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea have also been attracting large attendance numbers as well. They were joined by the World Poker Tour, who drew record fields when visiting Cambodia and Taiwan with the Main Tour and Prime brands.

It sounds like the perfect paradise, but one particular thing has been missing thus far: Casinos. Sure, underground games are nice when you play by the rules and make some profit but doing so in regulated and licensed venues would be even better. And that may very well change in the next few years in Thailand, as the government is actively working towards allowing the construction of casinos as part of comprehensive entertainment complexes.

Casinos in Thailand Gain Support


These news came to light at the end of March 2024 and subsequently shared by the Bangkok Post in a series of articles, then picked up by various international news outlets. And it was then the Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin himself, who confirmed the news and ongoing process on his social media account on X (formerly known as Twitter):

Thavisin’s policies in recent years to attract foreign investors to bolster the tourism industry and attract companies from outside of the country to support the local economy are taking further shape. He is in full support of the development and an initial feasibility study passed the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority, gaining 253 out of 257 votes.

However, it is still a long way to go before the proposed plan can become a law and go into effect, even if that can be expected in the current legislative period within the next 12 months. Legalizing casinos would only be the first step and there appears to be no line of thought to place them away from city centers in areas dedicated to gambling only. Instead, the study recommends to integrate the new casinos inside of large entertainment complexes and supported by public transport connections.

The study, based on figures of newly established casinos in the nearby Singapore, is projecting revenue gains of “about $12 billion a year” and could result in a rise of 52% in tourist spending for additional earnings “of as much as 449 billion baht”. Whether or not these amounts are achievable in the early stages remains to be seen. The local economy would certainly be boosted by the construction and financing with plenty of new jobs on the horizon once the brand new entertainment complexes start operating.

However, that is just one part of the equation. According to the Bangkok Post, Prime Minister Thavisin also admitted that the country is aware of the illegal gambling activities and wants to take an active approach to turn evil into good.

“It’s time for our society to stop hiding the gambling, which is out there, and just properly regulate and take care of it,” he said in the article from March 28, 2024.

Any such undertaking is certain to take several years before coming reality, during which Thailand will have lost further ground against other rising nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Especially South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines come to mind. Whereas live poker in Vietnam may be booming without any sign of slowing down in the last few years, all major tournaments take place in private card clubs or hotels and while the Vietnamese government strictly prohibits most forms of gambling, including online casinos.

Casinos in Thailand and Japan

For now, it is expected that the first new entertainment complexes may be opening in 2029 if the new law takes all official hurdles. That put’s Thailand in direct competition with another country in South East Asia in which poker becomes increasingly popular: Japan. Casinos have long been illegal in Japan but a law passed in 2018 already made exceptions for card games such as poker and baccarat.

Many small card clubs with nominal fees can be found all over the country, even though cash prizes are not allowed to be given away with very few exceptions. However, even that may change in the next few years and there is further encouraging news from the country as well. In 2021, the construction of a first land-based casino project was submitted by MGM Resorts in partnership with the Orix Corporation.

In April 2023, the plan was officially approved by the Japanese government and the integrated resort will come to life on Yumeshima Island near Osaka. Initially set to be completed in 2029, the project is now rather expected to open the doors in 2030 and would see two very popular tourist destinations go head-to-head in their respective launch phases.

Whether or not poker on a large scale would play a vital role from the get-go is another topic for debate. By default, it would seem more likely to be the case in Japan thanks to the established popularity. The Japan Open Poker Tour is already running in cooperation with GGPoker as sponsor, with the leading online operator hosting online satellites for the stops as well.

However, there is also a reasonable chance that this becomes reality in Thailand as well. Aforementioned  Thanarattrakul, known to many as “Tent”, is involved in Taenaatak Poker, a media organization for poker sport and entertainment in Thailand. He is usually followed by a camera crew to create poker content for online platforms and actively tries to grow the popularity of the card game in the country.

The Asia-Pacific region has seen skyrocketing attendance figures in all major live poker tournaments across most brands and countries with an even more exciting next few years ahead. Another two very popular and well-connected countries to join the fray of potential hosts for events would be the cherry on top.

Poker in Thailand


*Article by Christian Zetzsche

Avatar photo

Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Special EmailTwitterFacebookFlickrYouTube