SiGMA Insight: Gaming in Thailand – Part 1

Lea Hogg 1 year ago
SiGMA Insight: Gaming in Thailand – Part 1

SiGMA News examines Gaming in Thailand as part of a series on gaming in South East Asia.

Thailand is ahead of Malaysia in the iGaming market. With a population of 70 million, internet users at 54 million, and smartphone ownership at 52 million, Thailand is fertile ground for iGamers.

But the country’s strict gambling laws prohibit all forms of betting except for the national lottery and horse racing. The prohibition dates back to the Gambling Act 1935, which amongst other restrictions, includes a ban on the private ownership of more than 120 playing cards.

Gambling industry thrives

Despite this, the underground gambling industry thrives and in January this year, the House of
Representatives approved a bill to establish resorts across the country set to feature five-star hotels, casinos, amusement parks, sports stadiums and even zoos. The plan is that foreign players and locals over 21 who can prove they have hold at least US $15,000 in their bank account for six months will be allowed into these casinos. The vote does not legalise gambling as detailed studies on the economic suitability of regulated land-based gaming must be completed first. However, the Centre for Gambling Studies and Centre for Social and Business Development estimate that 70 percent of adults gamble regularly, generating approximately US $5.5 billion in annual revenue, so the Government has a compelling reason to legalize and benefit from tax.

Thailand has mirrored worldwide gaming trends and cultivated a demand for gaming segments such as online gaming for battle royale and match genres. The surge in online gaming is attributed to higher internet penetration, more smartphone ownership, and the introduction of 5G coverage. The improvement in streaming quality now allows Thai consumers to watch online gaming streams through popular platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook gaming.

Thailand is second only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia’s gaming market and its DEPA Game Accelerator Program aims to improve the landscape for game publishers and developers. In 2020, two cloud gaming services were launched: Blacknut by Gameloft and Antstream Arcade, and other local games include Kingdoms Reborn, Home Sweet Home, Project Nimbus, Fallen Knight and Timelie.

Increased Smartphone ownership and faster internet have seen console, and PC online games such as Diablo converted to mobile platforms joining popular titles like Garena RoV, Garena Free Fire, Roblox, and PUBG Mobile. Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games such as League of Legends have contributed to the popularity of the battle royale genre.

Online gaming is illegal

Although online gambling is illegal, it is hugely popular, so much so that in 2020 the Government launched a campaign against online casinos, cooperating with other state agencies to take down up to 190 online sites, primarily casinos.

90 percent of Thais practice Buddhism, which believes gambling is one of four vices that lead to ruin. A Thai proverb sums it up “Ten robberies leave you a house, ten fires leave you land, gambling once leaves you nothing. Despite this warning, a recent survey disclosed that over 80 percent of respondents welcome legal casinos and entertainment. Online gambling is already essential entertainment for Thais, with the majority listing online gaming as one of their top five hobbies. Thai video gamers are said to generate over US $1.24 billion in annual revenue, up to US $700 million of that from gaming. Most popular titles include RoV: Arena of Valor, and online casino games are growing in popularity, especially those in Siamese. Games produced by Thailand companies include Earth Atlantis, Timelie, and Home Sweet Home.

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