Thai Police Arrest More Than 9,000 People on World Cup Gambling Charges

Thai police arrested more than 9,000 people on illegal gambling-related charges during the first 20 days of the World Cup, Deputy police spokesman Krisana Patanacharoen told media on Wednesday.

Police have ramped up efforts to crack down on illegal betting since the beginning of this year’s biggest sporting event as football has a massive following in Thailand and sports betting is generally a very popular activity, even though it is prohibited under the country’s gambling law.

According to the latest numbers released by Thai police, as many as 9,420 individuals were arrested in the period between June 14 and July 3 on illegal betting charges. Of them, 392 were arrested for providing illegal gambling services to residents of the country, 149 were found to have acted as bookmakers’ agents, and 8,879 were arrested for betting on World Cup matches.

As many as 169 people were arrested after being found to have gambled online and 79 were arrested for operating illegal gambling websites.

Police said that officers seized around THB3.83 million (approximately $115,321) in cash and THB2.54 million (approx. $76,479)in bank passbooks during their raids. In addition, they also seized THB36.03 million (approx. $1.09 million) worth of betting slips during the first 20 of the Russia World Cup.

Illegal Betting on the Rise

Thai police pointed out that the arrests made during the first three weeks of the football tournament already exceeded those made during the 2014 edition of the World Cup by 5,000. What is more, Thai police only arrested 1,700 people for gambling-related offenses during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

With football’s popularity among residents of the Southeast Asian country and the growing variety of gambling channels, mainly digital ones, it should not be a surprise that Thailand has a booming black market.

Police said Wednesday that they have stepped up efforts to clamp down on illegal activities and that they have been patrolling ATMs, banks, convenience stores, and other facilities in a bid to prevent gamblers from turning to crime to recover gambling-related losses.

With very few exceptions, those being betting on horse racing and a state-run lottery, gambling in all its other forms is prohibited in Thailand. The ban dates back to 1935 when the country’s Gambling Act was introduced.

However, the prohibition seems to have never really stopped Thai population from nurturing a gambling habit. Reports suggest that around 70% of Thailand’s adult population gamble regularly and that the country’s illegal market is worth hundreds of billions of Thai bahts.

Thailand has not been the only country that has boosted its efforts to combat illegal gambling ahead of and during the World Cup. Police in China, Vietnam, Singapore, and other Asian nations have been carrying out multiple raids over the past three weeks that have resulted in arresting thousands of individuals for alleged violation of regulations and involvement in illegal gambling activities and seizing behemoth amounts of illegally wagered money.

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