GAMBLING IN THE KINGDOM _ Part two

GAMBLING IN THE KINGDOM _ Part two

Last week we introduced the Gambling Act BE 2478 (1935), which prohibits all forms of betting and games of skill or chance where a wager, either in the form of money or goods, is placed on the outcome. Providing an overview of the only two legal forms of gambling in the Kingdom, the national lottery and domestic horse racing, we explained how each operates and how the public can engage in legalised gambling through these outlets.

To continue our exploration of gambling in Thailand, today we will explain the lists of prohibited activities in the Gambling Act and the associated penalties. There is definitely a wide range of illegal activities for the wagering Thai or foreigner to indulge in given that the underground gambling economy has been found to net nearly 100 billion baht annually, and is actually larger than the legal government lottery.

The Gambling Act divides all forms of gambling games into two categories. The activities in the first category, List A, are prohibited unless a royal decree is issued, and that only happened once, back in 1935. Illegal activities in this category include those that are prohibited in much of the developed world, such as betting on contests between animals where inhumane treatment or torture is involved. Examples of this would be dog fighting or cockfighting when cock spurs are attached to the legs of the bird.

However, less violent gambling activities are also included in List A such as dice games, traditional street games such as guessing how many seeds are in one's hand, the classic casino game of roulette, and slot machines. The penalty for participating in or organising most of the games on List A is a fine of up to 5,000 baht and/or a jail term not exceeding three years.

The second category of illegal games is itemised in List B, which can be legally licensed on a situational basis by a commissioned police officer with the rank of inspector or higher. The power to grant licences in these instances is given under Ministerial Regulation No17, BE 2503 (1960). These high-ranking officers also have the ability to issue an exemption for the jurisdiction under their supervision, which regulation allows any activity on List B or one that is not on any list. If such a notice is issued, organisers do not require a licence to host these types of events.

The games outlined on List B are much more conventional in nature, such as billiards, bingo, blackjack and mahjong. In addition, contests between animals that are not considered inhumane, such as horse or dog racing, and cockfighting (without spurs), are part of List B. This answers one big question we had which is, if gambling is illegal, why do we have a Thai TV channel devoted to cockfighting; it's the absence of rooster weaponry, of course. The penalty for being caught participating in, or organising, an illegal non-sanctioned gambling activity found on List B is a fine of up to 2,000 baht and a jail sentence not exceeding two years.

Since this law dates back to when Thailand was still the Kingdom of Siam and hasn't been updated in generations, it obviously does not address internet gambling, which is arguably the most popular form of gambling in the world today. Online gambling falls into the ''other'' category; although there are no laws addressing internet gambling specifically, it is nonetheless illegal anyway. Internet service providers in Thailand will not grant licences to allow gambling websites to be hosted in Thailand.

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology is tasked with monitoring those in Thailand using overseas websites to wager, and does its best to block such websites from being accessed from within the Kingdom. Good luck trying to make your FA Cup, Superbowl or Six Nations wager. This agency has also reportedly flagged heavy-use telephone numbers during poker tournaments for illicit activity and have even seized bank accounts of those caught in large-scale online gambling operations.

Although the laws may be a few steps behind current technology, enforcement mechanisms are definitely keeping pace. Anyone caught participating in an illegal gambling activity not expressly prohibited on one of the lists is subject to a maximum fine of 1,000 baht and/or up to one year in jail.

Next week, we will go into a few real-world scenarios including underground casinos and your Friday night darts league.


Angus Mitchell (angus.mitchell@dfdl.com),
Matthew Christensen (
matthew.c@dfdl.com)
and Ponpun Krataykhwan (
ponpun@dfdl.com) of DFDL Legal and Tax.

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