Police have arrested thousands of gamblers in Thailand since the World Cup started four days ago.
Gambling operators shut down
The 21st FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, currently taking place in Russia, is an exciting time for football fans around the globe. It’s also a time for authorities to step up their anti-gambling efforts.
According to reports in The Bangkok Post, law enforcement authorities in Thailand have arrested 3,000 illegal football gamblers and bookies since the 2018 event began.
The newspaper adds that financial institutions and phone service operators are helping authorities to stop online gambling. Of the 3,000 arrests, 250 took place in Bangkok and neighboring provinces. Reports claim that over 100,000 football gambling websites have been uncovered, around 100 of which were apparently run by Thai people.
Deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan said that online operations were set up ahead of the World Cup and were being monitored by police. The information gathered was used to support requests for court orders to close them down.
He added: “Gambling on the World Cup is bigger than it was four years ago because people have easy access to football gambling websites via mobile phones.”
According to police major general Romsit Weeriyasan, the acting secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office, his office along with police, telephone service operators, and 36 financial institutions had banded together to detect online gambling.
Illegal websites under fire
Thailand seems to have its hands full cracking down on illegal websites offering betting opportunities to local gamblers. Last Thursday, it was reported that Thai authorities had issued orders to arrest 100 models and celebrities featured in online ads for illegal FIFA World Cup gambling sites.
According to the report, hundreds of ‘web pretties’, or Thai women, hired to model for the online sites are among those who could be arrested. In Thailand, all forms of sports gambling are deemed illegal; nevertheless, they remain widespread.
Hong Kong and mainland China have also been making efforts to break up illegal gambling activities in the run-up to the World Cup. Last Friday, fifty people were arrested during police raids where betting records were seized, according to a report. It’s believed that this year’s World Cup will generate more gambling revenue in Asia compared to the 2014 World Cup in Brazi, mainly because the time zones in Asia are much closer to Russia’s.
Earlier this month, The Strait Times reported that authorities in Singapore were launching public education campaigns to back up their efforts to clamp down on illegal remote gambling. At the time of the report, at least two people had been arrested for their involvement in providing illegal remote gaming services.
Since February 2015, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has blocked more than 800 illegal gambling websites, 200 bank accounts used by illegal remote gambling operators, and $7m (£5.3m) worth of transactions, the report notes.
The Dutch Gaming Authority is also taking a closer look at sports betting during the World Cup to ensure that no minors are tempted to take part.
Chinese poker crackdown
As part of a stamping down on underground real-money poker games, Chinese authorities arrested 39 people, including esports industry executives, in April.
Among those arrested were three high-ranking officials of Beijing Lianzhong Company, a major subsidiary of Ourgame, and one of China’s leading gaming developers and promoters.