Thailand police are showing they’re serious about combatting illegal World Cup betting, having made over 3,000 arrests in the 2018 tournament’s first four days.
On Monday, deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan announced that about 250 of the 3k gamblers and illegal bookmakers nabbed so far were caught in the Bangkok region and its adjacent provinces.
The deputy chief noted that gambling activity was higher than recorded during the 2014 tournament “because people have easy access to football gambling websites via mobile phones.” The top cop said police had identified thousands of online football betting sites promoting their wares to Thai bettors, but only around 100 of these sites were hosted in Thailand.
Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner Phanurat Lakboon told the Bangkok Post that the police had limited options when trying to eradicate online betting, much of which was conducted via licensed sites in Cambodia. “We can’t tell Cambodia to close down its online gambling websites because gambling is legal there.”
Phanurat added that it was standard procedure for Cambodian site operators to hire Thai citizens to open bank accounts in Thailand through which online betting activity is funded. As a result, Thai police can only arrest these low-level and easily replaceable cogs in the gambling operation.
Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has teamed with three dozen banks and other financial institutions to monitor for suspicious account activity during the tournament. Police have also submitted a list of over 300 different betting websites that local internet service providers are being asked to block.
Official statistics showed that around nearly 7% of Thai citizens placed some kind of wager on the 2014 World Cup. The Royal Thai Police prepared for this year’s event by establishing a national operation center to combat illegal online wagering while Bangkok police were cracking down on so-called ‘net pretties’ who promote betting sites via their social media profiles.