7-year-olds lured into gambling
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7-year-olds lured into gambling

Call for harsh punishments

Researchers have called for severe punishments for people who lure children into gambling or allow it, after an alarming survey showed children as young as seven have become regular punters.

Of 2.1 million Thai gamblers, 207,000 of them were children and youth, according to a survey by Mathurada Suwannapho, director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Rajanagarindra Institute, with the support of the National Health Foundation.

Teenagers comprised the biggest group of online gamblers and the trend is on the rise, the recently released survey shows.

The survey, conducted in 2017, is part of Dr Mathurada's research on ways to mitigate the impact of online gambling on young Thai people.

According to the research, gambling can impede brain development and life skills among children and online punting could deliver three times more harmful effects than normal gambling.

"Gambling would also open door for kids to move to other vices or even crime," the research said.

The research pointed out an Abac poll in 2008 showed more than 370,000 people aged between 12 and 24 had engaged in football gambling during the Uefa European Championship that year. It was also found that 83.8% of them believed football gambling was commonplace.

The research noted online gambling is a key reason youths skipped classes. Those who could not repay gambling debts were found to have engaged in illicit businesses.

The research outlined ways to help safeguard children and youth from online gambling and urged the government to attach importance to the problem.

The research also suggests stiffer punishments be imposed on those who allow children to engage in all kinds of gambling while such an offence must be regarded as a severe transgression.

According to the research, a state organisation should be formed to help ward off online transgressions and budgets must be continuously earmarked for them.

It recommended a fund against child gambling be set up to arrange activities to raise public awareness. Students from Prathom 4-6 (Grade 4-6) should be educated about the problem.

Meanwhile, the National Health Foundation is set to hold a public forum on the problem of children gambling on Wednesday.

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