A recent survey has found a six-year-old punter betting on football matches in Thailand despite a nearly total ban on gambling in the country. Meanwhile, authorities have declared crackdown on World Cup betting less than a month before the start of the football championship in Russia.
More than half of all Thai people, or 55 per cent of the country’s population, gambled last year, according to a research carried out in 25 provinces across Thailand. This accounts for around 29 million people, a staggering figure considering the fact the almost all forms of gambling are banned in the Southeast Asian country. The only two exceptions in the strict anti-gambling law are betting on horse races and the government-sponsored Thai lottery. Conducted by Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Gambling Studies, the research also found a child that started gambling at the age of 7.
Another, more recent study on middle school students comes up with just as alarming results, the local Bangkok Post reported on Friday. Researchers have found that one of the students in the poll has started placing bets on football matches even earlier, at the age of 6. The paper cites the Centre for Gambling Studies director Nuannoi Trirat who explains that the most popular type of gambling in the country is the national lottery, followed by illegal products such as underground lotteries and card games. The fourth most-popular form of gambling turns out to be sports betting but not just any kind of sport, football is the most preferred, Trirat says.
Although 55 per cent of people in the country have gambled in past year, 75 per cent (around 40 million people) admit they have placed bets at some point in their lives. According to Trirat, just last year, there were approximately 600,000 first-time gamblers in Thailand. The most alarming trend in the country, however, is the increasing number of children who play lotteries and bet on sports events and football matches, in particular. In an attempt to tackle the problem, anti-gambling groups have launched a prevention campaign. Among them is the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, which inked a partnership Thursday with authorities and private organizations.
Thai Police Launches Special Operations Centre
Last month, the Royal Thai Police said it would be launching an operations centre tasked with cracking down on illegal online betting during the World Cup. The special unit started operating Tuesday with staff from several agencies, including Central Investigation Bureau, the Immigration Bureau and the Anti-Money Laundering Office. The centre has been put together by the Metropolitan Police Bureau which has already focused on bringing down illegal gambling dens.
The centre’s newly appointed director, Pol Maj-General Panurat Lakboon, who is also deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, announced that 600 individuals would be charged soon for illegal gambling. They have been identified after reviewing documentation police seized during a raid on a betting shop on Sunday. Although the special operations centre did not open until May 15, officers and investigators attached to it have started their work in the beginning of the month. So far, they have apprehended 15 bookmakers and 201 punters, and have confiscated THB171,856, illegal tickets, 21 computers, and more.
The centre will also focus on children who place bets as even the legal forms of gambling are prohibited for individuals under the age of 18. Under the Child Protection Act, their parents will be fined and face jail sentences of up to 6 years for those who children have been caught to gamble for the second time. At the same time, Stop Gambling Foundation chief Thanakorn Khromkit has asked Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to take actions against betting on football matches during the World Cup which starts in Russia on June 14.