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Looking back: Gambling through the decades

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Looking back: Gambling through the decades | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Gambling, in all its forms, is illegal in Thailand. But despite the fact that it has been outlawed for several decades, it is still a popular ‘recreation’ for many Thais.

Underground gambling dens throughout the country do very well, and casinos, located in towns like Poipet, just over the Cambodian border, are mainly Thai owned and often packed with Thai gamblers.

The history of gambling in Thailand goes back a long way. Before it was outlawed, gambling was a popular pastime, growing especially rapidly during the late 19th century. It was spurred by Chinese immigration, a growing economy and the adoption of paper money.

According to a book by James A. Warren, gambling was popular amongst all Thais, from princes to slaves, Chinese merchants to workers, and government officials to farmers, monks and children. In fact, gambling dens frequented by Chinese immigrants were an important source of revenue for the government during the reign of King Rama V, representing around one-fifth of total government revenue collected from ‘tax farms’ during the 1860s.

During the reign of King Rama V, tax farms were the most efficient means by which the government could collect tax. The government would allow several wealthy merchants or businessmen to bid for such a franchise, which was an area or district with enough business activity to generate revenue for the national tax coffers.

If a merchant won the bid, he would have to pay the government the agreed sum for the exclusive right to raise tax within that district or area. The ‘tax farmers’ were almost invariably rich Chinese businessmen. Their gambling dens contributed significantly to the revenue collected from the jurisdiction.

Through this complex relationship, gambling activities continued to feed government revenues for many years.

Official attitudes toward gambling were equally complex, contradictory and ever-changing over time.

Not only was gambling an important source of revenue for the government, it was also a sensitive issue in maintaining peaceful relations with the massive and growing Chinese immigrant communities.

On the other hand, gambling was seen as a vice that was starkly against Buddhist teachings. There is a popular saying among Thais that when a man’s house catches fire, he loses the house but the land remains his property. However, when a man is addicted to gambling, he loses his house and his land.

Many Thais viewed gambling addiction as a threat to a strong society.

Gambling dens were also seen as uncivilized by western powers that threatened Siam’s independence. King Rama V wanted to promote the concept that Siam was a civilized nation, worthy of respect equal to that of its European counterparts, particularly at a time when there was a disturbing perceived connection between gambling and crime.

King Rama V and the princes who advised him knew well the evils of gambling. But as with many of the King’s previous reforms, such as the abolition of slavery and the feudal system, the King understood that the state had to outlaw gambling gradually, over a number of years in order to avoid stirring up social unrest.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Siamese government increased its control over all forms of legal gambling in Siam, and the numbers of farms and gambling dens were reduced. Throughout Bangkok and the provinces, many gambling dens were ordered shut.

The idea was that if there were fewer gambling dens, the tax farmers would have to bid higher and more competitively for the exclusive right to raise tax revenue. This would translate to higher government revenue.

In the year 1902, the government passed a law which brought nearly all forms of gambling under official control. The Gambling Revenue Act of 1902 gave the government full authority in licensing different forms of gambling throughout the kingdom, apart from the Chinese games played in the dens and the ‘huai’, a form of lottery established in1835.

Licensed gambling was divided into three classes. Class 1 covered games that involved large gatherings of people, such as cockfighting. These were only licensed to certain venues. Class 2 comprised fairground games, such as target shooting, raffles and throwing hoops to win prizes. These required a permit and could be played only during festivals and special occasions.

Class 3 games could be played at anytime once a permit had been granted. These included cards, dice and board games. In keeping with local traditions, many of these games could even be played without a license during Chinese New Year and Songkran, the Thai New Year.

The decline in the number of gambling dens, both in Bangkok and the provinces, brought a steady decline in gambling revenue for the state. By 1916, however, a series of tax collection reforms had diminished the state’s reliance on gambling revenue.

In keeping with the image of a civilized country, King Rama VI allowed passage of a ban on virtually all forms of gambling, including the ‘huai’ lottery first established in 1835.

Gambling, however, did not cease after 1916. Corruption on the part of police and other government officials, as well as social attitudes toward gambling, ensured that illegal gambling remained prevalent and widespread, just as it is today.

James Warren argued that revenue from gambling might even have helped build the modern Siamese nation during the reign of King Rama V.

During the late 19th century, Siam was subjected to several unfair treaties. The Bowring Treaty of 1855,for example, forced Siam to remove barriers to trade with Britain.Tariffs and trade monopolies, a traditional form of revenue for the government, were abolished.

With its independence under constant threat from European powers, Siam had little choice but to rely on other sources of revenue, such as tax from gambling. State spending on modernization projects such as the construction of hospitals and railways may have been financed to a significant extent through taxation of gambling activities.

— Anand Singh

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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