Police in Thailand cracked down on a number of online gambling operations that were doing business in contravention of the country’s laws. Thailand, like many countries, has extremely outdated laws governing gambling, and its Gambling Act of 1935 hasn’t kept pace with the changing times. The only forms of gambling permitted in Thailand are the lottery and horseracing, but there is immense demand for all sorts of gambling that is met by online operators. In fact, a large number of Thais visit online gambling sites operating from servers located internationally.
The latest operation against gambling operators was quite a large one and it resulted in the arrest of 16 people. The websites had been extremely successful in attracting punters from all over Thailand and also drew the attention of authorities since they had collectively managed to rake in more than THB100 million, the equivalent of US$2.85 million, on a monthly basis.
Thai police teams conducted raids on gambling establishments and offices in 18 different locations across the country. All the arrested people are Thai nationals and they are believed to be employees of call centres who were required to take wagers from customers. It is believed that they will be charged with money laundering and also advertising their gambling services. If found guilty of the charges, these individuals might have to do a maximum of two years in prison in addition to being required to pay up to THB 5,000 in fines.
Police Colonel Sihanart Prayoonrat who heads the Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) told the news media that 38 bank awards had been identified as belonging to members of the gambling ring. These bank accounts containing a total of THB10 million have been frozen by the authorities pending the investigations. Police also seized 50 computers in addition to communication equipment as well as bank books.
The fight against online gambling rings hasn’t been proceeding at the desired pace because investigative authorities do not have the resources they require. In fact, the country’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) doesn’t even have the authority to arrest companies that operate gambling rings located outside the country or even to block various websites that have licenses to operate in multiple international jurisdictions.
The Thai government, however, seems to be very serious about bringing online gambling under control. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has invested additional powers in the country’s military forces in order to give them the right to arrest criminal suspects since the police forces are woefully understaffed. While this order known as “Suppression of wrongdoings that could threaten Thai economy and society” is indeed part of the country’s crackdown on civil liberties, it can also be used to control criminal activities such as gambling, prostitution, extortion, fraud and other types of crime. Soldiers belonging to the country’s armed forces can now detain suspects for up to seven days. It will be interesting to see whether this move of the government will be able to get the desired results in keeping gambling under control.