Police chief supports casino plan

`Impossible to stop Thais from betting’

National police chief Sant Sarutanont agrees that the country should legalise casinos.

He said as it was impossible to suppress underground gambling dens, they should be brought out into the open and controlled.

Commenting on the attempt by Thai Rak Thai MPs to seek approval for domestic casinos, Pol Gen Sant yesterday said he personally agreed with the idea because it would help solve economic problems as well as security issues along the border.

“We cannot tell Thai people to stop gambling. Even when they are at the barbers having their hair cut, they bet on licence plates and banknote numbers. Most Asians like gambling. There are underground and mobile gambling dens. As we cannot stop them, we should legalise them,” Pol Gen Sant said.

UFABet Gambling was neither a serious evil nor an offence to others like murder, robbery or drug trafficking, the police chief said.

He promised police would act in line with whatever decision the government took on this matter.

“If the government agrees to open casinos, the police will keep them in order and make them benefit society as much as possible. If the government decides against it, police will try to wipe out underground gambling dens.”

He said the state could stipulate that casino operators allow entry only to the wealthy. Visitors could be required to present their assets or records of tax payment that should meet minimal amounts to be set.

Legal casinos would not boost crime because police could inspect them at any time. On the other hand, underground gambling dens triggered more crime and operators usually fled before police arrived.

It was also dangerous for Thai people to visit casinos or gambling dens along the border, Pol Gen Sant said.

Parliament President Uthai Pimchaichon yesterday said both developed and developing countries generally accepted casinos because they caused no harm. Besides, casinos did not welcome poor people, so it was pointless worrying about the poor getting addicted to gambling, he said.

“Someone has thoughtfully said that what we cannot ban anyway should be legalised and controlled. We should take this into consideration. However, the parliament president is not saying whether there should or should not be casinos.”

Commenting on a report House members had gambled in the overseas casinos they recently inspected, Mr Uthai said they had actually intended to study the operations of overseas casinos.

Sangsit Piriyarangsun, vice chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, also supported the idea.

He said legalisation would help keep in the country the 300-400 billion baht that was being spent in casinos abroad.

He said the money spent in casinos in neighbouring countries was undermining Thai democracy.

He said some Thai politicians ran those casinos and spent the income on securing their political power and networks which covered village headmen and staff of local administrative organisations.