By THE NATION
The Mental Health Department yesterday announced a gambling rehabilitation hotline 1323 and a Facebook page – @GamblingCounseling1323 – to offer counselling services from June 14 onwards, while 19 hospitals will open their doors to give further aid.
The moves are in parallel to a police vow yesterday to crack down on football gambling bookies and debt-collecting violence, block 1,000 gambling websites and probe 1,000 celebrity promoters.
Even elephants in Ayutthaya clambered aboard the bandwagon yesterday, displaying their football skills as part of an anti-gambling campaign.
Mental Health Department director general Dr Boonreung Traireungworarat yesterday led a Pathum Thani training workshop for 60 psychiatric hospital workers on how to aid gambling addicts’ rehabilitation.
Boonreung said Thai children and youths were most vulnerable to football betting amid the World Cup hype being boosted by the Internet era where anyone could gain access to all kinds of websites.
A 2015 survey found 53 per cent of kids had accessed gambling websites and become vulnerable to addiction since their brain’s frontal lobe, responsible for reasoning and self-restraint, wasn’t yet fully developed. Youths’ gambling addiction could lead to social issues such as theft, prostitution, or even depression and suicide. Hence the hotline 1323 would provide advice around the clock, the Facebook page would offer free counselling from 2.30pm to 10.30pm during the tournament and 19 hospital clinics would be on hand to aid those attempting to kick their gambling addiction, Boonreung said.
Dr Ratchanee Chalongkuakul , director of Bangkok’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Rajanagarindra Institute, said those with signs of addiction [having trouble sleeping, hiding losses from family and friends or suddenly being in need of financial aid from others] could call the hotline to get advice on ways to prevent pathological gambling.
Those wishing to quit should delay placing bets to counter the urge, find constructive distractions such as exercise or hobbies, and make the decision to kick the habit, she said. Their family members could help by being understanding and forgiving so the addicts felt encouraged to change, she said.
Elsewhere, nine elephants from the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal yesterday joined local youths in a friendly football match at the Ayutthaya Wittayalai School stadium as part of a campaign against football gambling.
Meanwhile, deputy national police chief Pol General Chalermkiat Srivorakan yesterday followed Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan's instruction by vowing a serious crackdown on football gambling and debt-collecting violence ahead, during and after the World Cup.
As part of the operation, Chalermkiat said some 1,000 websites linked to football betting could be closed and 1,000 “Net Idol” celebrities allegedly promoting football-gambling be probed. The Net Idols may be charged with encouraging others to gamble, an offence punishable with one year in jail, or a Bt1,000 fine, or both, he added.