Thailand is known for its strict anti-gambling laws as it follows the policy of other countries located in South-East Asia. It currently maintains a full ban on the larger part of gambling activities.
The only exceptions are the State Lottery and horse races. The latter is the only kind of sports betting activity available in Thailand up to date.
The gambling legislation in Thailand is very strict. Local players are only permitted to bet on horse racing, as well as on the National Lottery. Currently, all other forms of gambling are not legal on the territory of Thailand, including poker and casinos, bingo, and sports betting. Bullfighting and cockfighting are also very popular among local citizens, but they are illegal, too.
However, despite the gambling activities ban, gambling is flourishing in the country. It has turned into a large industry, especially the one that has grown underground. The revenues generated by gambling operations on an annual basis is estimated to about $6 billion.
No matter that gambling operations are practically banned, they remain attractive to local residents, who are willing to take advantage of the land- and web-based opportunities no matter how few they are. Such activities, of course, are risky, because local bookmakers are known for generating great wins on the back of players, especially with no regulators for the latter to turn to.
The National Lottery is considered as the primary form of legalized gambling activity. It was started in 2003, mostly due to the fact that there had been operating a large underground lottery system. The Government was looking for a proper way to drive these ill underground practices out by creating a lottery system that is officially regulated and sanctioned
Thailand’s National Lottery is organized by the Government Lottery Office, which sells two-digit ad three-digit lottery tickets to local citizens. The sale of lotto tickets fell under the attack of the Thai National Legislative Assembly, which has tried to make it illegal in 2006.
Still, even the lottery that is legalized, there are no guarantees against illegal activities. For example, three years after the legalization of the national lottery, the country’s Primer Minister and other officials of the Government were accused of skimming more than $1 billion from the revenues generated by the state lottery.
Up to date, no provisions are provided for online gambling. Still, in the common case, web-based operations falls under the general category of such activities, which makes them practically illegal.
Gambling operations in Thailand are currently regulated by the Gambling Act of B.E.2478. According to the Gambling Act’s provisions, local citizens are not permitted to organize, play or gamble in games, which are specifically stated in List A of the bill. The so-called List A, which has already been mentioned, is annexed to the Gambling Act. It includes gambling games and activities, which are also related to street games and various Thai dice games. The list also includes betting on animal fights, such as cockfighting or dog fights. Certain traditional casino games like slot machines and roulette, are also included in the list.
In addition, there are some provisions concerning gambling in the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand – sections 853 and 855. The latter make it clear that any form of gambling debts are not enforceable. Legislation provisions such as this one have made the country’s gambling legislation considered as too strict.
In addition, a great number of the anti-gambling countries have managed to implement at least some form of licensed gambling activities. The Government of Thailand, however, has never even considered such an option for the gambling legislation, including web-based activities, no matter if it comes to local or foreign ones.
The strict regime imposed by the local Government on gambling has made Thai people start visiting casinos near the country in order to wager. Surveys have proven that the residents of Thailand prefer Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore for wagering, and they visit these countries’ gambling and casino facilities quite often.
As already mentioned, there are no specific legislation concerning online gambling. This means it falls under the common case and is also considered as illegal. No licenses for hosting casino and gambling websites are provided by the Thai Government. The latter has never even considered permitting Internet-based gaming operations within the country, especially keeping in mind the fact that land-based casinos are mostly forbidden.
Despite the ban on web-based gambling operations, local player still use foreign casinos and gaming websites to place wagers. Such websites are hosted in foreign countries, where the Government of Thailand has no jurisdiction. This practically means that Thai authorities have almost nothing to do in order to prevent players from using online casinos and gambling websites hosted overseas.
Still, the situation with the foreign gambling websites is being monitored by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. The latter also blocks the local players’ access to such websites. There is also a specialized state agency, which operates under the Ministry and takes care of red-flagging telephone numbers in case of an unusual heavy-use over the Poker Tournaments. The agency is also entitled with the responsibility to determine if these telephone numbers are involved in any illegal acts of gambling.
In spite of these measures, the Government anti-gambling policy is primarily focused on land-based gambling activities due to the fact that they are easier to be monitored. In addition, there is a great variety of international casino and gambling websites that accept Thai players, which makes it actually impossible for the local authorities to constantly keep an eye on them.