Life is a lottery


Many, many years ago, I visited what used to be the two closest legal casinos to Thailand _ one in Macau and the other in Malaysia. Thai customers in Macau didn’t have to bring their money with them as it was illegal to take large amounts of cash out of the country at that time. You simply paid your agent who arranged the trip here in Thailand and when you arrived at the casino in Macau the appropriate amount of money was waiting for you.

As for the majority of Thais who couldn’t afford an overseas trip, the legal options to satisfy their insatiable gambling itch were, and are still, very limited. There’s the government lottery and, strangely, two horse race tracks in the very centre of Bangkok.

Of course betting at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and the Royal Turf Club is a very lucrative source of earnings for these two “elite” clubs, and results in the relatively poor, who are the majority of gamblers on race days, subsidising the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

A number of years ago, in a pathetic attempt to assuage their conscience, the authorities declared that only gamblers wearing proper shoes could enter these clubs on race days. This move did not have the desired effect, but it did raise the cost of entry for poor people who now have to rent proper shoes for the afternoon from the stalls which sprang up at the gates of the clubs.

Of course today there are many more legal casinos closer to Thailand than Macau and Malaysia. According to no less an authority than First Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, there are now seven casinos across the border in Cambodia and two more under construction. He failed to mention those …

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