Gamblers will gamble Togel


CROSS-BORDER CASINOS: Denied their pleasure at home, Thai gamblers find it abroad at some 30-40 casinos and gambling dens specially set up to serve them just a few steps from the borders with neighbouring countries

`Gambling is the heritage of mankind,” said the late Thai author M.C. Arkas Damkerng in one of his novels. For many Thai gamblers, his words also hold true in real life.

There are numerous casinos and gambling dens along the 2,000-kilometre-long border which Thailand shares with its neighbours, and Thai gamblers make up more than 90 percent of the clientele. With revenues of about 200 billion baht a year, it’s not surprising that many major investors in the gambling havens are also Thai.

These figures were disclosed in a paper entitled “The Casinos Along the Thai Border _ Effects and Guidelines to Solutions” which was submitted to the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo). The paper was written following extensive research by the Political Science Association of Thailand (PSAT), headed by Dr Pornsak Phongpaew, who is the chairman of the association and a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science.

As the name of the paper suggests, the research was undertaken to shed light on Togel gambling along the Thai border. The paper also provides a wealth of information on the history of gambling in Thailand and around the world, and presents some current attitudes on the management of gambling.

Starting in January of this year, the study team began making field trips to gambling establishments across the border from the Thai towns of Trat, Chathaburi, Sakaew, Chiang Rai, Chaiang Mai and Ranong. Pornsak said that his research group had found that, in addition to the large scale casinos, there are 30-40 temporary and permanent smaller gambling establishments lying on, or close to, the Thai border in neighbouring countries.

The group also went further afield to look at gambling resorts inside Malaysia and to Holland and Germany.


The modern gambling industry began in Germany in the 19th Century as entertainment and relaxation for the nobility. Casinos were mostly built at resort destinations such as Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden and Monaco.

Not until after World War II were casinos developed in America, England and other European countries.

During the 1990s the gambling industry rapidly expanded into Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. In 1992 all sorts of gambling establishments were accepted as legal business in over 100 countries worldwide. The pleasure and relaxation gambling offers have become a chief attraction for tourists and have produced huge revenues for host countries.

From 1990 to 1998, revenues from the gambling industry in America rose 156%, to US$29.5 billion. The number of casinos in Australia increased from from 26 to 200 in the decade, earning 13.3 billion Australian dollars in 1999.

The PSAT research disclosed that there were 3,894 casinos in 133 of the word’s 209 countries as of April this year, including 1,495 in America, 352 in Australia, 134 in Canada, 294 in France and 96 in Russia.

In Asia, legal casinos were reported in Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, North Korea, South Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Vietnam.


It seems that Thailand is standing virtually alone in the region in its resistance to legalised casinos. There are, of course, several forms of state-approved gaming, including a lottery and horse racing, and many underground operations. It is only since modern times that there have been laws concerning the status of any form of gambling in Thailand.

Dr Pornsak said that some of the earliest forms of gambling may have revolved around religious ceremonies brought over from India, but that most likely the first gambling games played on Thai soil came from China. The first reports are in 946, during the Sukhothai Period, of the Chinese game of bean guessing. Another instance was reported in 1557 during the reign of Sadej Phra Maha Chakraphat in the Ayudhya Period.

The writings of Monsieur De La Loubere, special French envoy of King Louise 14th to Ayudhya during the reign of King Narai the Great, confirmed in 1687 that there was heavy gambling among Thais.

Gambling laws came into existence in Thailand back in 1938. Twenty-eight kinds of gambling, including baccarat and slot machines, were listed in category I, with another 28 kinds in category II. Games classified in category I were allowed only in state-run casinos by royal decree, while the games in category II were more or less unrestricted in arenas or gambling dens.

A legal casino was officially opened by a royal decree in April 1939, under the Khuang Abhaiwonge-led government, following hoarding and shortage of goods by speculative merchants who were getting rich from hiking prices. These merchants and other rich folks were fond of gambling, so the government decided to tax them through a legalised casino. The casino operated in Prachuab Khiri Khan’s Pranburi district, but was shut down long ago. There are at present no legally authorised casinos operating in Thailand.


Well-known Thai politicians and businessmen are major shareholders in most of the casinos surrounding Thailand, according to the PSAT research. The flowering of casinos along the Cambodian border goes back to 1993 and the political policies developed by the first prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and the second prime minister Hun Sen. Since Hun Sen took control by force in 1997 he has continued to make revenues from transnational gamblers a big part of his country’s rehabilitation plans.

With a will to develop the country but insufficient budget, he promoted foreign investment in casinos along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The Casino Koh Kong International Resort Club is located right on the edge of the Thai-Cambodian border across from the Ban Had Lek border checkpoint in Klong Yai district of Trat. Thai businessman Phad Suphapha has invested about 180 million baht in the operation. His partner is the former governor of Koh Kong province in Cambodia. The casino, located in a 4-star hotel, offers poker, baccarat, roulette, blackjack and slot machines.

About 100-200 Thai gamblers visit during weekdays, with a daily turnover of about 10 million baht. On the weekends about 400 Thai gamblers a day cross the border in micro buses, when the turnover is around 40 million baht.

The Casino Golden Crown Club in Poipet, opposite the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, is 50 percent owned by Thais (Pichet Thienthong has 20 percent, 20 percent is held by Somboon Charoensukkrai and 10 percent by Uaypron Kamchornpanichcharoen), according to the PSAT research. Their co-investor is Kok Ann, believed to be a close associate of Hun Sen. The Golden Crown is run by an American team led by Mike Gore, who has experience in Las Vegas and the Philippines and used to be the manager at Casino de Genting in Malaysia.

The Casino Star Vegas Resort in Poipet is owned by Maj-Gen Tia Soth, the elder brother of Cambodian Defence Minister Gen Tia Banh, and Wattana Asavahem, the leader of the Rassadorn Party in Thailand, according to the research. Wattana is also reported to have a 350 million baht investment in the Casino Grand Diamond City, also in Poipet.


In Laos, the Casino Daen Sawan Nam Nguem Resort lies about 60 kilometres northeast of Vientiane in the 209-room Sabaidee Hotel. It is a joint venture between the Laos-Syuen Development Company and Laotian Deputy Defence Minister Lt-Gen Nakon Sinanon, according to the research. The Thai-Laos Paradise Co in Udon Thani and the Thai-Laos Paradise Bangkok Co are its agents in Thailand, with a commission of 4.5 percent of the turnover in the casino. About 200 Thai gamblers visit the casino daily.

In Burma, the Casino Golden Triangle in the Paradise Resort Hotel runs 24 hours and lies less than two kilometres from the Thai border. The booming resort began in 1989 with a concession from the Burmese government to the Phothasuthon group of Thailand.

The hotel is now run by Withawas Phothasuthorn. His father, Prasit, is chairman of the board, and also the elder brother of former deputy interior minister Praphat Phothasuthon. The clients of this casino are mostly from the upper classes. On weekends there may be as many as 500 guests and the turnover is not less than 10 million baht a day.

The Casino Regina Entertainment at Tachilek in Burma sits on about 2,800 rai and is about 3 km. from Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai. It began as a 250 million baht joint investment between U Aung La, chairman of M.Y.M. Enterprise and Thai politician Adul Boonseth. Adul is a Phichit MP of the Thai Rak Thai Party who attained the concession from Burmese authorities. One week after the casino opened, he sold his part of the business to Mrs Lakhana Chareonwatthanakul, a close aide to Udon Thani MP Kiatchai Chaichaowarat of the Thai Rak Thai Party, according to the research. The turnover at the Casino Regina from mahjong, dice, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and slot machines is about 10 million baht a day.

Thai Senator Vikrom Aisiri attained a 30-year concession for the Casino Andaman Club at Koh Son, opposite Muang district in Ranong, from the Burmese government for a fee of US$10. The resort has a first class hotel with an 18-hole golf course, a small zoo, a casino, a restaurant, and shows from abroad. The investment here was about 1 billion baht. The senator is also the owner of the Dusit Highland Resort Hotel in Chiang Rai.

About 58 km north of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is the Casino de Genting, the biggest casino complex in Asia yet, with four hotels and two apartment complexes. Also on the contoured grounds are a golf course, a horse racing track, a ranch and a park. It lays claims to be the best casino in Asia, and can accommodate 24,000 guests. Most of them are from China and Taiwan.

The Malaysian government gave the permit to run the casino to Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, a Malaysian Chinese billionaire.

Though there are sometimes protests from extreme Muslim groups, it’s not likely that the Malaysian government will give up the billions in tax revenues collected annually from gambling operations in the country, according to the research.

The researchers found that most casinos along the Thai border are professionally operated by foreign executives. One of them told the research team that although the amount of the original investment is very high, it can be recovered quite quickly.

Many of the casinos earn up to 300 million baht a month, most of it coming from Thai citizens while not being taxed by the Thai government.

The researchers concluded, therefore, that the cross border casinos and gambling establishments have an overall negative effect on the Thai economy.




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