Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin’s proposal to legalize internet gambling in order to increase government revenue has drawn criticism from those who think it will be difficult to regulate and lead to a number of societal issues.
Following claims that eight policemen were found to be participating in online gambling activities, Mr. Somsak, who oversees the Justice Ministry, made the comments. On September 25, 30 locations in six provinces were searched by cybercrime police.
Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, the deputy national police commander, lived in five of them.
The suspected participants in the “Betflix” online gambling network were the targets. Thailand prohibits the majority of gambling activities.
He advocated for the legalization of further types of gambling, like football. Currently, he claimed, neither the state nor the general public gain anything from gambling revenues.
State revenue would rise if they were subject to taxes similar to other forms of gambling that the Interior Ministry has authorized, such as bull and cock fighting.
He promised to talk over the matter with the Strategic Transformation Office and perhaps present a suggestion to cabinet.
He claims that there is a lot of money involved in online gambling. According to the deputy prime minister, taxes might be collected and used to support the elderly, the disadvantaged, and persons with disabilities.
Scholars are divided.
An economist named Visanu Vongsinsirikul told the Bangkok Post that the internet unites all types of gambling and allows users to wager using applications, websites, mobile devices, or PCs.
“The challenge is preventing young people and children from engaging in internet gaming. It’s possible for adults to develop an addiction to it.
According to Mr. Visanu, online gambling is simple to access and is available at all times and locations.
“The issue is distinct from that raised by the legalization of casinos. It is difficult to restrict or reduce the number of gamblers because the online platform unites all gambling activities and gambling is always an option for individuals.
In addition to making people more dependent on gambling, he claimed that it was also associated with issues like credit card fraud and money laundering.
“Legalizing online gambling should come last. Who is going to arrest you if you gamble in your bedroom? he asked.
According to Mr. Visanu, if the government wants to legalize internet gambling in order to generate income from it, it can let businesses that run online gambling websites to be set up legally in the nation.
For instance, Poi Pet in Cambodia produces the majority of the online baccarat games. The main corporation in Cambodia will still receive the cash if a bookmaker is permitted to operate lawfully in Thailand, he claimed.
Only a few nations, he continued, have legalized online gaming. Online football betting is the only legal form of online gambling in Singapore, but it is only permitted in some states of the US.
“Legalizing internet gaming requires considerable consideration. Because it is challenging to regulate and establish standards for, it ought to be the last resort, according to Mr. Visanu.
Senior research fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute Nonarit Bisonyabut told The Bangkok Post that gaming causes a variety of issues.
“Legalizing gambling is not a fix for social issues, and it won’t make them go away.
In his words, “if gambling is to be legalized, it should be allowed on a limited scale, such as setting up a casino in every region with a set of criteria for screening people and it should be for the purpose of promoting tourism.”
According to Mr. Nonarit, the scope of legalized gambling in some nations is still quite small. For instance, the maximum amount of money that may be wagered on a football game is $1,000 ($1,000; 37,000 baht), according to him.
However, this cannot be used in Thailand because to the large number of gamblers there. He argued that a comprehensive campaign against industrial gambling ought to be started.
Not worth the danger.
Legalizing gambling, according to Thanakorn Khomkris, director of the Stop Gambling Network, is easier said than done.
According to him, the government should prioritize enforcing the law strictly against significant illicit gaming businesses and amending the law to increase gambling regulation.
He said that a number of organizations, including the Royal Thai Police, the Interior Ministry, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office, are active in the fight against gaming.
Each of them, however, just makes passing mention of the problem; no agency is taking the initiative or playing a significant part in solving it, according to Mr. Thanakorn.
He shared the belief that legalizing online gambling would be detrimental rather than beneficial, noting that it is easier for people to access, enables constant playing, and be harder to regulate than traditional gambling.
Legalized gambling may increase tax revenue for the government, but it will also cause more social issues, crime, and corruption, according to him.
“The risk of legalizing gaming is not worth it. As the Chinese government discourages its nationals from traveling to nations where casinos are permitted, Thailand may lose Chinese visitors, according to Mr. Thanakorn.
According to him, the Chinese government opposes gambling because it encourages corruption and has ambitions to transform Macau, a well-known center for gambling, into a hub for innovation and creative enterprise.
The concept to legalize gambling in Thailand, according to Mr. Thanakorn, “goes against such a trend as creative business is becoming a global trend.”
The Bangkok Post was informed by a source at the Central Investigation Bureau that the extensive use of bribes by online gambling companies was made possible by payments made to several police departments.
According to the source, some police are in favor of legalizing internet gambling and allowing gaming establishments so that taxes may be collected to bolster state coffers rather than cash being exchanged illegally.
The source continued by saying that despite internet gambling being legalized, there are still other types of illegal gambling, and the government must continue to work to stop them.
The Bhumjaithai Party has previously pushed the government to expedite the construction of the planned legal casino because it may aid in the fight against gambling dens, fraudulent activity, and illicit online gaming.
In order to fight corruption and generate income from legal gambling, Bhumjaithai MP Saritpong Kiewkhong stated that he would like the government to take legalizing casinos into consideration.
He said that numerous police and government officials who take advantage of the legal gaps have received payments from illicit casino operations.
By making casinos legal, the government would be able to inspect both conventional and online casinos.
Due to its potential for financial gain, a special House committee published its assessment on the viability of constructing entertainment facilities, including legal casinos, in January.
Such a facility would cost $8 billion, or 280 billion baht, per the report. To create and hire 30,000 employees would take five years.
According to the research, one might be constructed near Bangkok, along the Eastern Economic Corridor, or in any of 22 popular tourist destinations.
It might also be found in border regions with ongoing immigration inspections, such as Phuket, Phangnga, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phayao, or within a 100-kilometer radius of an international airport.
It recommended allowing eight different sorts of gambling, including wagering on sporting events, foreign exchange rates, stock market indices, and online casinos.