Thai police have arrested more than 9,000 people in connection with illegal gambling during the first 20 days of the World Cup, police deputy spokesman Krisana Patanacharoen told reporters on Wednesday.

Police have stepped up efforts to tackle illegal betting since the start of the biggest sporting event of the year, as football has a large fan base in Thailand and sports betting, although prohibited by law, is extremely popular in the country.

According to the latest figures released by the Thai police, 9,420 persons were arrested between June 14 and July 3, accused of illegal betting. Of these, 392 were arrested for providing illegal gambling services to residents of the country, 149 were recognized as acting agents of bookmakers, and 8,879 were arrested for betting on World Championship matches.

169 people were arrested after it was discovered that they were gambling online, and 79 were arrested for using illegal gambling sites.

Police said officers seized about $ 115,321 in cash and $ 76,479 in bank passbooks during the raids. In addition, they discovered $ 1.09 million worth of bets on the first 20 matches of the FIFA World Cup.

Thai police said arrests made during the first three weeks of the football tournament have already exceeded those made during the 2014 World Cup by 5,000. What’s more, Thai police arrested 1,700 people for gambling crimes during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

With the popularity of football among Southeast Asians and a growing variety of gambling channels, mostly digital, it comes as no surprise that Thailand has a thriving black market.

Thai Police Arrest More Than 9,000 People on World Cup Gambling Charges

Police said on Wednesday that they have stepped up efforts to curb illegal activity and that they are patrolling ATMs, banks, shops and other facilities to prevent criminal activity and repair gambling-related losses.

With very few exceptions, those who bet on horse racing and play the lottery and gambling are violating the laws of Thailand. The ban was passed in 1935 when the Gambling Act was introduced in the country.

However, the ban apparently never stopped the Thai population from gambling. About 70% of Thailand’s adult population is reported to gamble regularly and the country’s illegal market is worth hundreds of billions of Thai baht.

Thailand was not the only country to step up its efforts to tackle illegal gambling ahead of and during the World Cup. Police in China, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian countries have carried out numerous raids over the past three weeks, resulting in the arrest of thousands of people for allegedly violating rules and participating in illegal gambling and obtaining large sums of money in an illegal manner.  

Categories: Championship