Betting on Songkhla: Legal casino spin to boost border tourism

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Tourism operators in Songkhla urge the government to consider developing an entertainment complex with a legal casino to revitalise tourism in border areas and reduce dependence on Malaysian visitors.

As the government reviews a project for an integrated entertainment complex, Songchai Mungprasithichai, President of the Songkhla Tourism Promotion Association, highlighted the potential of Ban Dan Nok and the area around the Sadao checkpoint. These locations, being the main entry points in the South, could attract tourists interested in gambling.

Tourism growth in Songkhla remains concentrated in Hat Yai, with Malaysian visitors largely bypassing Ban Dan Nok, Songchai said.

“Tourism operators in Ban Dan Nok report a quiet market. Even in Hat Yai, tourist flows are inconsistent compared to the past. During festivals, 90% of the foreign market comes from Malaysia, but now they have more options than Hat Yai.”

During peak periods like the Songkran holiday in April and the Malaysian school holiday from May 25 to June 2, occupancy rates soar to 90%. However, these rates typically drop by half after the holidays, Songchai added.

He mentioned that demand for casino tourism would likely be high, given the popularity of destinations like Genting, which hosts legal casinos and resorts.

Tourism income

In March, Songkhla’s tourism income reached 3.7 billion baht, placing it tenth among Thai provinces.

Songchai urged the government to establish clear regulations to screen local gamblers, such as setting a minimum income requirement.

He also suggested that local communities should have a say in whether they want a casino complex, considering the potential social impacts of legalized gambling.

Songchai observed that, despite being an Islamic country, Malaysia permits legal casinos in Genting.

For the entertainment complex plan to succeed, it must address the economic impact on locals, helping them understand that the development would include various attractions like hotels and shopping, not just gambling.

Songchai believes that developing entertainment complexes in provincial areas could benefit tourists looking for attractions beyond gambling.

For Songkhla, such a complex could diversify tourism markets to include nationalities other than Malaysians, he noted.

Tourism operators in Songkhla have already engaged with the Tourism Authority of Thailand office in Kunming, China, to attract more tourists via direct flights.

Songchai said that with new attractions like an entertainment complex, the province could offer both seaside destinations, appealing to tourists from mountainous areas near Kunming, and entertainment activities such as casinos, reported Bangkok Post.

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Alex Morgan

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