As the World Cup is approaching close, Thai authorities have ramped up efforts to battle illegal gambling.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has instructed police to crack down on football gambling and violence during and after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15.
As part of the operation “Pitakpai Dulaeprachachon 61”, police also plan to summon and investigate around 100 celebrities and internet presenters for allegedly promoting illegal football betting websites. Deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Phanurat Lakboon said on Tuesday these people may face a maximum imprisonment of one year and/or a maximum fine of 1,000 baht. He cited section 12 of the gambling law, which prohibits all forms of advertising and acts encouraging others to gamble.
The police also announced plan to block about 1,000 gambling websites.
Entertainment venues were also warned that allowing or organising football gambling is a punishable offence, which may result in them being closed down.
Phanurat also said a total of 763 people have been arrested since May 1 for their involvement in football gambling.
On the same day, nine elephants also participated in a football match against local students in Ayutthaya to raise awareness against illegal gambling. “They’re here to bring colour and joy, and create awareness that we can enjoy the World Cup without gambling and just cheer for the soccer players,” said Reangthongbaht Meephan, deputy chief of the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal.
The country’s Mental Health Department announced a gambling rehabilitation hotline 1323 and a Facebook page – @GamblingCounseling1323 – to offer counselling services from Thursday onwards, while 19 hospitals will open their doors to give further aid.
A survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce forecast that World Cup betting in the country this year will reach 59 billion baht.