Online gambling alarms child advocates

Online gambling alarms child advocates

Operation plan drafted to dissuade youth from betting

The growing popularity of online games and e-sports among Thai youths and children is worrying child protection advocates about the possibility of exploitation in order to lure more young people into gambling.

About 3.6 million youths are involved in some forms of illegal gambling — of which 2 million are males and the rest females — said Phacharaphan Prachuaplap, secretary-general of Thailand Youth Institute, citing results of a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics.

On average these young gamblers owe about 3,500 baht each as a result of their habit, said Mr Phacharaphan, citing information from the same study which was conducted in 2017.

Dr Mathurada Suwannapho, director of Rajanukul Institute — a body under the Mental Health Department which specialises in child and youth psychology — said while online games and e-sports attract a large number of youths thanks to easy accessibility, there is a high risk that many of them will be tempted to switch to gambling for teams they support later on. 

E-sports and online games are already connected with online betting services on certain computer programmes and mobile smartphone applications in which users can not only play a game online but also make in-game purchases, chat with others, and make other payments online, said the doctor.

Dr Mathurada was speaking at a seminar on problems facing children and the youth related to online gambling held on Thursday by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

In the case of e-sports, viewers are allowed to watch a tournament while at the same time bet on its result, she said.

As such, the viewers who are mostly young can be easily lured into online gambling, she said.

“These children and youths aren’t aware that online games and e-sports are already connected with [illegal] online gambling business,” she said.

In a bid to curb gambling problems facing the youth, an operation plan has already been drafted with measures both to prevent young people from getting involved with gambling and mitigating the impact of illegal gambling on Thai youth, said Phongthon Chantharatsami, manager of National Health Foundation's Information Centre for Gambling Control Policy.

“The situation of online gambling, in particular, is very critical now with easy access to the internet,” he said.

And while it normally takes months to shut an illegal online gambling site, it takes only a few minutes to create a new one, he said.

Worse still, the 1935 Act on gambling doesn’t even contain the definition of online gambling, which means authorities at present are required to refer also to the computer crime law when trying to get someone prosecuted for offering an online gambling service, he said.

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