An Irish model is one of six “web pretties” that have been convicted of violating Thailand’s gambling regulations for promoting World Cup wagering.
Suspended sentence and fine
Jessie Vard, 19, a native of County Donegal, in northwestern Ireland, moved to Thailand when she was young. She is also one of the six in question to be sentenced by the Dusit District Court for violating Section 12 of Thailand’s Anti-Gambling Act, by encouraging people to bet on the World Cup via social media.
According to a report from the Bangkok Post, Vard was sentenced to one month in jail, suspended for one year, and ordered to pay a fine of 1,000 baht (£23; $30). The other web pretties involved were Paradee Koosinsap, Saitarn Yim-ampa, Nirada Kuenongkhun, Thanyakarn Rojin, and another defendant.
Claiming she was unaware that gambling is illegal in Thailand, Vard apologised in front of media when she turned up at the police station.
She went on to say that she had never met the person who paid her to promote the gambling site and that she had lost contact with the person after she became aware of the charges. She also urged Thai youth not to get involved with gambling.
A report from the Mirror suggests that women can earn upwards of €10,000 (£8,800; $11,500) a month for promoting these websites.
Last week, it was reported that authorities in Thailand had issued orders to arrest 100 models and celebrities featured in online ads for illegal FIFA World Cup gambling sites. Known as web pretties, models and minor celebrities in the country are accepting modelling assignments for hundreds of offshore sites offering services to gamblers in Thailand.
Crackdown on World Cup gambling
In the run-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Thai authorities have been ramping up their efforts to stamp out illegal gambling.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Thailand’s police had arrested 3,000 gamblers in the country in the first four days of the World Cup starting. Of the 3,000, 250 were in Bangkok and neighboring provinces. It’s reported that more than 100,000 football gambling websites have been uncovered, around 100 of which were apparently run by Thai people.
According to deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan: “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.”
Not only that, but the time difference between Russia and Asia is much closer, allowing more gambling revenue to be generated. This is compared to the 2014 FIFA World Cup that took place in Brazil, where the time difference is 10 hours apart from Asia.
With World Cup fever sweeping Thailand’s nation, authorities are keen to be seen to be taking a hard-line approach against gambling. Their strict thinking can also be seen in previous World Cups. In 2014, Thai authorities are reported to have arrested 5,000 individuals in connection with illegal gambling operations.
China steps up efforts too
In a bid to break up illegal gambling activities, police have arrested a number of suspects in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to a report.
Last week, it was reported that fifty people had been arrested during police raids and that $9.9m (£7.47m) worth of betting records were seized. In addition to cracking down on illegal betting, Hong Kong officials have announced that they will be removing fake goods from circulation.
It seems that the World Cup is a good a time to do this as any other. During the 2014 World Cup, police seized more than over $95m (£71m) worth of illegal betting records. They also arrested 176 people for betting and money-laundering related offenses.
With measures already in place for this year’s World Cup, authorities may find themselves in a good position to arrest more illegal bookmakers and seize illegal betting records.