These gambling restrictions leave two forms of legal gambling for Thais to enjoy: the government lottery and betting on horses. Any citizen or tourist who dares to participate in illegal forms of gambling is risking arrest. Underground casino operators are targeted by authorities. Traditional games, such as baccarat and slots, are specifically mentioned in the Act. Violators of the gambling law face possible jail time and a fine equaling 5,000 THB, which equates to $165 dollars.
Bingo, online sports betting, and raffles are also prohibited. However, those participating in these illegal gambling activities are fined less severely, with a penalty of 1000 THB, which equals approximately $33 in fines. Jail time is not likely but still possible for violators of less severe betting activities. For instance, if a Thai citizen is caught red handed while gambling at an illegal casino during a raid, he is likely to experience significant legal trouble.
Many Thais turn to online gambling, because the Act was written so long ago that it doesn’t cover online gambling. Gamblers are more likely to get in trouble for betting at an illegal land-based casino in Thailand than betting on the internet via computer or mobile. Bettors might have a good argument that betting online is not a violation of the Act. However, since authorities have taken steps to block gambling websites and the Gambling Act is broad in its wording, gambling online is also a risk.
Just because the country does not currently crack down on individual bettors online, doesn’t mean that its policies won’t change in the future. Given the wide breadth of the Act, its language may allow for restrictions for Thailand’s online betting market.
Since the country does not regulate online gambling, unregulated sites are operated by unlicensed owners. Any gambler who participates in betting activity in unregulated sportsbooks and casinos may experience loss from disreputable actors. Any dishonest operator may fail to payout earnings and bonuses.
Lack of governance over online betting activities is leading to a rise in sports betting among Thais. Since local police focus on shutting down physical casinos, authorities have yet to curtail gambling websites, which are licensed in other countries beyond attempts to block access. Even though betting is illegal, online activity is becoming more popular among Thai citizens who enjoy sports.