Thailand's Deputy PM Calls for Online Gambling Legalisation Amidst Controversy

OCR Editor. - October 22, 2023
Thailand Flag

Thailand is contemplating legalizing online gambling, a proposal by Deputy PM Somsak Thepsutin, aiming to boost state revenue but facing solid societal opposition.

In Thailand, gambling has historically been heavily restricted. The Gambling Act of 1935 imposes prohibitions, such as a ban on private ownership of over 120 playing cards and limitations on all forms of betting, save for the national lottery and horse racing.

A Vision for Expansion:

Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin has approached the Thai government with an ambitious proposal to legalize online gambling. But he doesn't stop there. Envisioning a broader expansion, Thepsutin suggests that sports betting and traditional activities like bull and cock fighting should also be brought under a legal framework, potentially overseen by the Interior Ministry. He criticizes the current tax regime, asserting that its ineffectiveness neither benefits the state nor its citizens. With his proposal, state revenue could substantially rise, potentially benefiting sectors such as disability care, elderly support, and poverty alleviation.

A Storm of Concerns:

However, this bold move has not been without detractors—numerous voices in the community point to the societal issues that could arise from such legalization.

Guarding the Vulnerable:

Visanu Vongsinsirikul, an economics professor, emphasizes the comprehensive nature of online gambling platforms and their omnipresence, making them particularly addictive. He raises an alarming concern about protecting the youth, saying, "if adults are so susceptible to becoming addicted... how to protect children and adolescents from online gambling?" He further cautions against the myriad issues associated with online gambling, such as money laundering and credit card forgery, especially in the absence of stringent regulatory measures.

The Underlying Societal Quandary:

Nonarit Bisonyabut, a seasoned Thailand Development Research Institute researcher, states that gambling legalization won't solve the country's inherent societal issues. He believes Thailand's inclination towards large-scale gambling would make implementing a smaller-scale legal framework challenging, which might have been a more controlled approach.

Police Entanglements:

Amidst this storm, there's a subplot involving central Thai police and their alleged involvement in online gambling. Recently, cybercrime police conducted raids across 30 locations in six provinces, acting on reports of police officers, including the deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn, being involved in an online gambling network named "Betflix."

A Global Perspective:

This ongoing debate in Thailand occurs in the shadow of the upcoming SiGMA Europe 2023 conference, scheduled from November 13th to 17th in Malta. A significant event in the gambling industry, SiGMA Europe provides an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss innovations and challenges, potentially offering insights for countries like Thailand as they grapple with the complexities of gambling legalization.

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