Online Gambling Law in Thailand
Nearly all forms of gambling are illegal in Thailand. The legislation doesn't specifically mention internet play, but online gambling falls under the general category of gambling. The two exceptions to the country's ban on gambling are the national lottery and betting on horses at a few racetracks. Other than that, the entire country is a no-gambling zone.
Even so, gambling is big business in Thailand. Survey after survey finds that nearly 60% of Thais engage in some form of gambling, sports betting, or poker. A survey in 2014 concluded that nearly ฿43 billion was wagered on the World Cup alone in Thailand. This translates to $1.3 billion in total wagers for that one event.
A large majority of the wagers in Thailand are placed with local bookies and agents who operate contrary to the law. Most major betting sites also accept customers from Thailand and process deposits and withdrawals in Thai bahts. The government attempts to block known gambling sites, but people are able to access most sites with a little extra effort.
Is It Legal to Bet in Thailand?
Local police overlook gambling for the most part, but they do conduct raids from time to time in an effort to show they are serious. Thai police arrested more than 1,000 people in a crackdown leading up to the 2014 World Cup. Most of those people were bookmakers, but several individual punters were arrested as well.
Anyone caught gambling illegally in Thailand is subject to a ฿1000 fine and up to a year in jail. It's rare to see individual bettors charged with gambling, but it does happen from time to time. It would be wise to limit the amount of time you spend hanging around underground betting parlors in Thailand.
The same thing also applies to wagers placed online. If you get caught placing a bet over the internet, you'll face the same penalties as anyone caught at a local bookmaker. It's exceedingly rare for people to get in trouble for gambling online, but it is possible.
If you're determined to get involved in gambling in Thailand, the internet is the safest route to take. Police don't randomly kick down doors in search of individuals placing bets online. If you're not a part of a syndicate, keep a low profile, and gamble at home away from prying eyes, you should be OK. The biggest risk you would face at that point would be someone outing you to the police as an act of vengeance.
Safety Precautions for Online Gambling
Many people place bets over the internet every year in Thailand. In fact, Thailand is a popular destination for online poker pros who can no longer play in their home countries. More than a few online players from the US relocated to Thailand after PokerStars and Full Tilt exited the US market.
However, some safety precautions are in order. If you like to gamble or play poker online, keep it to yourself. Nothing good comes from letting people know that your money comes from banned activities in Thailand. All it takes is one tip to the local police force and you might find yourself in hot water.
If you earn a decent income via sports betting or poker, you should have a cover story for where that money comes from. Don't tell anyone you're a professional sports bettor or poker player. You may be proud of your profession, but you really need to keep it to yourself for maximum safety.
Foreigners need to be especially careful in Thailand, because the authorities don't consider online poker or gambling to be a legitimate job or business activity. Deportation is a very real possibility if the authorities discover your income derives from internet betting or poker.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015
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