Thailand Moves To Tighten Up On Illegal Gambling

By warning local internet service providers (ISPs) and cell phone operators that they will face legal action if they refuse to block their customers’ access to gambling websites, Thailand has moved to tighten its hold on illegal online gambling.

Under the Gambling Act of Thailand, originally drafted and introduced all the way back in 1935, the only gambling activities allowed in the country are government-run lotteries and betting on horse races.

Sunday, Thai government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri stated that the nation’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has instructed the National Commission on Broadcasting and Telecommunications, the Ministry of the Digital Economy and Society, and the police to take effective steps to prevent online gambling for children , young people, and other vulnerable people.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society also reported that Prime Minister Prayut had directed it to crack down on illicit digital gambling activities. Thai ISPs and mobile operators have been directed by the Ministry, which works with the National Commission on Broadcasting and Telecommunications, to refuse access to 1,202 illicit gambling websites that target Thai consumers.

The government spokesperson said Sunday that under court orders that were released earlier, the pages should be blocked.

In order to restrict access to all 1,202 websites, Thai ISPs and cell phone operators now have 15 days. If they fail to do so, they might face charges of violating the Computer Crime Act of Thailand and the Gambling Act of the country.

Gambling participation has been very strong in the Southeast Asian country, despite the long-standing ban on almost all types of gambling. More than half of the population of Thailand participated in legal or illegal gambling activities in 2019, according to a survey by the Thai Center for Gambling Studies and Center for Social and Business Innovations.

Despite the country’s tough stance against such practises, offshore gaming websites have for years been serving local customers.

News of Thailand’s clampdown on illicit gambling operations emerged shortly after Thai Civilized Party leader Mongkolkit Suksintharanon said the government of the country should consider legalising more forms of gambling in an attempt to secure new revenue streams as Thailand is struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic fallout.

The politician said that illegal gambling sites do not currently carry any profits to the nation as they pay no taxes, but if they operate in a controlled environment, this might change. Mongkolkit also called for the legalisation of casinos, aside from controlling the online gaming market.

He introduced a concept quite similar to the widely known integrated resorts where as part of larger, multi-purpose complexes, casinos are built. Mongkolkit said that in tourist-heavy areas, like Bangkok and Phuket, such complexes could be built.

Land-based casinos and online gaming operations could yield annual tax contributions of between THB5 billion and THB6 billion (between $157.6 million and $189.1 million), according to the legislator.