Four “Web Pretties” Accused of Promoting World Cup Gambling Ignore Summonses

Jessie Vard [Pic: @jessievardie)

Thai police have issued second summonses to four “web pretties” who failed to attend a police charge after they were accused of promoting illegal FIFA World Cup gambling sites online.

In the run-up to this year’s World Cup, authorities in Thailand cracked down on hundreds of illegal online gambling sites enticing the country’s gamblers. The crackdown also targeted hundreds of web pretties — women in Thailand who have been paid to promote the sites on social media.

Last month, it was reported that Thai authorities were planning to summon and charge 100 celebrities and models for allegedly promoting the illegal gambling sites. Of the 100 identified by the police as offenders, 37 web pretties were summoned by authorities to testify and hear the charges against them. However, of those 37 only 33 appeared; the other four ignored their summonses, reports The Nation.

As a result, police have had to issue second summonses to the four absconders. According to Phanurat Lakboon, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, arrest warrants will be issued if they fail to attend.

Of the 33 who did attend, 11 received suspended one-year jail terms and fines of Bt1,000 (£23; $30) for the offense of encouraging gambling in the country. The report states that the remaining 63 offenders will eventually be summoned.

From June to July 9, Thai police have arrested one bookie, 2,434 punters, and eight ticket runners involved in physically gambling on football match results. During the same period, authorities arrested 39 bookies, 48 punters, and 33 pretties or gambling promoters for online football gambling.

Model Jessie Vard convicted

Following the crackdown by Thai authorities, it was reported that Irish model Jessie Vard was one of six web pretties who had been convicted of violating Thailand’s gambling regulations for promoting World Cup betting last month.

Originally from County Donegal in northwestern Ireland, the 19-year-old model moved to Thailand when she was quite young, later establishing herself a career as a model. Yet, after violating Section 12 of Thailand’s Anti-Gambling Act, the Dusit District Court gave the six women suspended jail sentences for encouraging Thai bettors to place bets with online gambling sites that have no authority in the country. They were also fined Bt1,000 (£23; $30) each.

Vard said that she never met the person who asked her to promote the betting website and claimed that she wasn’t aware that it was illegal to promote gambling websites on social media in Thailand. She went on to apologize and urged the youth of Thailand not to engage in gambling.

Reports suggest that women earn upwards of €10,000 (£8,800; $11,500) a month for promoting these websites.

Thai police continue crackdown

With less than a week until the FIFA World Cup final takes place, authorities in Thailand are not slowing down their attack on illegal gambling in the country.

Four days after the start of the World Cup, there were reports that Thai police had arrested 3,000 illegal football gamblers and bookies, with more than 100,000 football gambling websites having been uncovered. Since then, that number has risen.

A report from Xinhuanet earlier this month suggested that around 10,000 people had been arrested in Thailand on charges of gambling on the World Cup. According to the report, that number is about twice as many as recorded during the 2014 World Cup tournament. In addition to the arrests, police have confiscated roughly 40 million baht (£906,000; $1.27m) in assets, and around 200 websites have been closed.

It’s believed that the fact that time zones in Russia and Asia are close has enabled more gambling revenue to be generated in Thailand. This is compared to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where the time difference was 10 hours from Asia.