Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has instructed police
to crack down on football gambling during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
As part of the operation – dubbed “Pitakpai Dulaeprachachon 61” (guarding from harm and taking care of public members in the year 2018) – Police General Chalermkiat had also proposed that some 1,000 websites linked to football betting be shut down and around 1,000 “Net Idol” celebrities in Thai social media, who are based across the country and allegedly appear in football-gambling advertisements, be investigated. The nationwide crackdown has targeted both gambling dens and online betting sites. It has been reported that 3,000 people have been detained after physical raids. Although financial institutions and phone service operators helped shut down some websites, Thai police admit they are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to the digital realm.
“You can catch physical gambling pools or arrest gamblers in the den. But it is almost impossible to track down those masterminds, both Thais and foreigners, behind online football gambling rings as most of them operated betting websites from Cambodia where gambling was legal under the neighboring country’s law,” said Phanurat Lakboon, Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) deputy commissioner. If found guilty, under Article 12 of the Gambling Act, anyone who arranges for or promotes others to gamble can be punished with a one-year jail term and/or a 1,000 THB fine, he added. If children are involved, their parents can face a 10,000 THB fine or three months in jail.
Deputy National Police Chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan noted that gambling activity was higher than recorded during the 2014 tournament “because people have easy access to football gambling websites via mobile phones.” Hua Hin police have recently investigated a number of local commercial premises which have been offering gambling services on a large scale and arrested over 20 individuals as well as confiscating computors and SIM cards.
No reports that bars offering ‘cup sweeps’ or similar gambling activities have been targeted. However as the finals of the FIFA World Cup draw closer, it may be noted that such activities render participants liable to Police attention and prosecution.