Police, civil group launch anti-Euro 2016 gambling campaign

Police, civil group launch anti-Euro 2016 gambling campaign

Customers visit a post office decorated with Euro 2016 logos and flags in Samut Sakhon ahead of the tournament. Thailand Post has sold tens of thousands of postcards to fans to predict the result of the final match. (Photo by Chanat  Katanyu)
Customers visit a post office decorated with Euro 2016 logos and flags in Samut Sakhon ahead of the tournament. Thailand Post has sold tens of thousands of postcards to fans to predict the result of the final match. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Royal Thai Police on Tuesday launched a centre for the prevention and suppression of betting on the upcoming Euro 2016 football tournament which is expected to attract more first-time teen gamblers.

The local gambling industry is looking forward to its busiest month of the year ahead of the much-anticipated 2016 UEFA European Championship which will kick off in France on June 10 and last until July 10. It is the biggest football betting event for gamblers, second only to the World Cup .

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Chalermkiat Sriworakhan on Tuesday presided over the opening of the anti-Euro 2016 gambling centre at the RTP headquarters. He later chaired a video conference with other senior police and responsible agencies including the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry. The centre is chaired by deputy national police chief Pongsapat Pongcharoen. 

Pol Gen Chalermkiat said he had instructed officers nationwide to be more stringent in cracking down bookies, gamblers and hosts of both traditional and internet-based gambling dens. Police aimed to arrest the big fish in the racket, as well as update their database of blacklisted people.

The money-laundering law would be enforced to confiscate the hosts’ illegally acquired assets. He urged the public to tip the police via the hotline 1559.

Pol Gen Winai Thongsong, another deputy police chief, said the crackdown would target large cities where major hosts were operating such as Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani. ICT ministry officials had also been asked to block illegal websites offering gambling services during the Euro 2016. 

Any police officer found to have been involved in the clandestine gambling ring would face disciplinary and criminal actions, he added. 

During the 2014 World Cup, more than 800 football gambling websites in Thailand were shut down and almost 1,000 people, mostly gamblers, arrested. 

Young anti-gambling campaigners organise an activity at Victory Monument, just a few days ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by by Sawitree Raksasit)

A 2014 study by the Centre for Gambling Studies, Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics, found gambling during major international football tournaments was no longer popular among adults only. First-time gamblers could be younger than 15, meaning they learned how to bet even before they reached high school.

On Tuesday, about 150 pupils and students from various institutes joined a campaign at Victory Monument to persuade Thais to enjoy the European football matches without placing bets on them. The event was organised by the Anti-Gambling Network and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. 

Last year, the Department of Mental Health’s hotline number 1323 received 310 calls from football gamblers, 100 of whom were women, who sought advice about their stress and debt problems. The callers were aged 22-59, with the youngest being 12 years old, said Mathurada Suwannapho, director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, Rajanagarindra Institute. 

“Adults spend hundreds of thousands of baht on average on the football gambling while the youth place bets for tens of thousands,” Dr Mathurada said. 

Thanakorn Komkrit, the head of the Anti-Gambling Network, said a 2014 study on Thai football gamblers indicated that the biggest age group of the gamblers was teenagers and people aged under 40. There were about 1 million of them.

The number of first-time betters tended to increase at each major tournament as the internet and mobile devices provided easy access to gambling services, he added. 

An 18-year-old man, who is detained at Ban Kanchanapisek Youth Training and Observation Centre for shooting dead a football gambling host who refused to pay him few years ago, encouraged present and would-be gamblers to refrain from betting and to watch football for entertainment purpose only.

“Gambling can't make you rich. It’s deceptive money,” he said. “We'd better watch and have fun with football as a sport and don't get involved with gambling. It’s not worth it.”

The teenager, whose name is withheld, said he started betting on football when he was 14 years old. He vows to quit all kinds of gambling and start a new life when his detention ends in the next five months.

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