Police struggle in online betting battle

Police struggle in online betting battle

It's easy to catch gamblers in dens, difficult to catch them on the web

The World Cup has brought inevitable gambling, and police admit that catching online bettors is the most difficult part. (Creative Commons)
The World Cup has brought inevitable gambling, and police admit that catching online bettors is the most difficult part. (Creative Commons)

After rolling out a campaign to crack down on football gambling a month before the World Cup kicked off last Thursday, police are still losing the battle against both offline and online football gambling.

Phanurat Lakboon, Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) deputy commissioner who was assigned to head a football gambling prevention and suppression centre, admitted that online betting made it more difficult for police to stamp out the illegal practice.

"You can catch physical gambling pools or arrest gamblers in the den. But it is almost impossible to track down those masterminds, both Thais and foreigners, behind online football gambling rings as most of them operated betting websites from Cambodia where gambling was legal under the neighbouring country's law," he said.

"We can't tell Cambodia to close down its online gambling websites because gambling is legal there. This factor makes it very hard to crack down on online football betting in Thailand."

Those online gambling websites would hire Thais as their nominees to open bank accounts.

Then, they would set up headquarters fully equipped with gambling paraphernalia in Thailand, mainly in Bangkok and other big cities.

"Therefore, only nominees and Thai employees would face legal action when their offices were raided," Pol Maj Gen Phanurat said.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th.

Another problem is Thai nominees are not afraid of the Thai online gambling law. Section 12 of the Gambling Act carries lenient penalties: a one-year prison term or a 1,000-baht fine, or both. The court often gave suspended jail terms for football gambling.

To beef up efforts against football gambling, Pol Maj Gen Phanurat said police tried to connect gambling hosts and gamblers' wrongdoings with the Anti-Money Laundering Act to be able to freeze and confiscate their assets.

The MPB deputy chief said more than 300 online football betting websites, mostly operated from abroad, have been monitored by officials with expertise in anti-cybercrime.

Police have submitted lists of 300 online websites to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission, requesting a block to access to those sites.

Gamblers' names and bank accounts would be retrieved from computer system to hunt them down and press charges against them.

In addition, legal action would be taken against parents whose children were allegedly embroiled in online sport gambling under the Child Protection Act.

So far, only 722 suspects were arrested in 667 offline betting cases, while other 763 other suspects were detained in 681 online gambling cases, according to the MPB's raids on football gambling from May 1 to June 13.

The amount is a drop in the ocean, compared with the scale of World Cup gambling, according to police.

Authorities only impounded 1.48 million baht in cash, 167 football betting lists valued at 3.77 million baht, 24 personal computers, four laptops, five receipt printers, one photocopier, 22 mobile phones and 1,004 bank accounts worth 22 million baht.

Pol Maj Gen Phanurat said the operations against the football gambling zero in on two folds: tough law enforcement and using social campaigns to educate that football gambling leads to other criminal activities such as theft, murder and suicide.

To ensure tough enforcement, local police chiefs would face transfer orders and disciplinary action if other police teams raided football gambling in their responsible areas, he said.

Police also made it easy to report football gambling by dialing 1599 and 191, or via a Line application of a football gambling suppression centre.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th

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