Can Thai police stop multibillion-baht World Cup gambling? Don’t bet on it
Thai police have a tough few weeks ahead as they seek to stifle the country’s notorious appetite for gambling on the Fifa World Cup.
Gambling remains illegal in Thailand for all except the national lottery and horse racing. But that won’t stop Thais from betting about 57.2 billion baht (US$1.6 billion) on the World Cup, according to the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Seeking to stem the tide, national police chief Damrongsak Kittiprapas has instructed his officers to step up monitoring for gambling on the tournament, which kicks off on Sunday at 11pm Thai time.
Underground gambling via illegal lotteries, casinos, cockfighting and Muay Thai is thought to be worth billions of baht per year in Thailand.
The wave of World Cup gambling has sparked fears that Thais desperate for cash after the Covid crisis will turn to betting and sink deeper into debt. Gambling has also been made easier in the past few years by the proliferation of betting websites.
Gen Damrongsak told a press conference that he has instructed the Police Cyber Taskforce and the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) to take charge of monitoring for online gambling on all 64 matches of the World Cup in Qatar.
The two agencies will work under the supervision of Gen Torsak Sukwimol, deputy police commissioner-general in charge of crime suppression.
Meanwhile, police stations will monitor for World Cup gambling at entertainment venues, hotels, bars, restaurants, Internet cafés and other places under their jurisdiction.
Any websites found advertising betting services would be blocked and their backers arrested, Damrongsak warned.
Those found guilty of organising football gambling would face a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 and/or a jail term of one year to 10 years, he added.