The primary law governing gambling in Thailand is the Gambling Act 1935, which contains, first and foremost a Royal Decree prohibiting all forms of betting; regardless of whether the wager agreed upon is placed on a game of chance or skill, and settled either in terms of money or goods. The only types of gambling activity recognized as legal by the Gambling Act 1935 are betting on outcomes of National Lottery draws via official lottery tickets, and on the results of domestic horse racing competitions that take place in authorized racing venues.
Another law that specifically prohibits gambling by way of card games is the Playing Cards Act. This law states that manufacturing and selling of playing cards without express approval of the government is considered a criminal act. Moreover, the Playing Cards Act decrees that it is illegal to have in one’s possession, more than 120 playing cards not registered with Thailand’s Excise Department.
Betting Activities Specifically Prohibited by Thailand’s Gambling Act 1935
In order to make the country’s gambling prohibitions clear, the Gambling Act 1935 enumerates the prohibited games under Lists A and B.
List A – Under this list, wagering on outcomes of animal competitions such as cockfights and dog fights are illegal, This list also includes casino games like slot machine games, poker and other casino gaming options like roulette, blackjack and baccarat, which is just to mention a few. The punishment for violating the Gambling Act by way of the above-mentioned activities is incarceration for 3 years plus payment of 5,000 baht as monetary penalty.
List B – The types of betting activities involve placing wagers in underground or illegal lotteries, or raffle events, bingo games and on outcomes of sports competitions. Anyone found guilty of engaging in such activities will suffer a maximum imprisonment of one year and payment of 1,000 baht as monetary penalty.
How Effective is Thailand’s Gambling Act 1935
Despite the clear and strict prohibition on different gambling activities stated in List A and B of the Gambling Act 1935, recent researches revealed that about 57% of Thai adults place wagers on various forms of real-money gaming and betting options.
Those opposed to the proposal of legalizing casinos are pointing out that the real nature of the country’s illegal gambling problem is being overlooked.
Thai’s gambling population are mostly interested in lotteries. Although locals buy their ticket from the official National Lottery, many prefer to buy the lottery tickets offered by underground gambling dens because they offer greater rewards, more frequent and have more betting options including that of sports betting.
The most recent study conducted by Thailand’s Centre for Gambling Studies revealed that the size of the illegal underground lotteries is even larger than that of the government’s National Lottery. Moreover, the pandemic drove the growth of online casino gambling among Thai gamblers as many have experienced the convenience of using mobile casino applications in accessing สล็อต (Slots) and a wide selection of casino table games
It’s obvious that Thailand’s Gambling Act 1935 has not been effective in curbing the citizen’s penchant for gambling. Yet many question the motive behind the proposal to legalize gambling by way of integrated resorts. The country already has a highly successful tourism industry, which at the moment is affected by the ongoing pandemic and related travel restrictions, not by the absence of casinos.
Lawmakers should also understand how advancements in online gambling technologies are providing Thai gamblers with better and safer betting opportunities.