Thailand Unlikely to Legalize Casino Gambling

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The CEO of Australian-listed Donaco International Ltd says he does not expect authorities in Thailand to legalize gambling, expressing confidence that the company will stage a strong recovery over the coming year as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic start to ease.

Lee Bug Huy, who was appointed CEO last year following a boardroom makeover, and Donaco’s CFO Gordon Lo were responding to questions from investors on Friday following release of the company’s 1H21 (July to December) results a week earlier.

The potential for Thailand to open its own casinos was raised by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in January, who stated he would consider the measure in a bid to curb a growing number of illegal gambling dens.

But Lee said Friday that such a dramatic policy shift seems unlikely.

“At this stage we do not expect the Thai government to legalize gambling in the country,” he said.

Instead, Lee outlined his confidence in the long-term prospects for Donaco’s Star Vegas casino, located in Poipet on the Thai border – despite having seen visitation impacted once again by a new wave of Covid-19 currently spreading across Cambodia.

“We anticipate this will be a temporary short-term impact, outweighed by a positive long-term outlook for the business as vaccinations commence in Southeast Asia in the second half of the year,” he said.

“We have executed an effective strategy during the [first half of the 2021 financial year] which has led to a return to positive EBITDA. We did everything we could during the first half to fix what had to be fixed internally and we are now ready to move forward once the COVID-19 situation improves.”

Lee said Donaco had been focusing on attracting local expats since its reopening late last year but said changes have also been made on the gaming floor, specifically to the Star Vegas slot machine business.

“There were a number of changes to slot machines provided [by previous management] which were not well received by clients, so the new management has restructured the machines to match the requirements of our target clients. We believe that as a result of this, our slot machine business will improve.”

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