3,000 Arrested for Illegal World Cup Gambling in First Five Days, Thai Police Claim

Posted on: June 19, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: June 19, 2018, 03:00h.

Thailand’s military junta was not kidding when it announced a “serious crackdown” on World Cup betting ahead of the tournament last week.

Thailand world cup gambling crackdown
Irish-born model and Thai social media star Jessie Vard was among those arrested in Thailand’s World Cup gambling crackdown. She faces a month in prison if convicted of promoting gambling on social media. (Image: YouTube)

The junta is at war with illegal gambling and is taking no prisoners. Scratch that, it’s taking lots of prisoners — some 3,000 in the first five days of the tournament — or so it claimed on Tuesday.

Also under fire are so-called “net idols,” or “net pretties” — promotional models with large online followings, sometimes employed by illegal bookies to advertise their services.

Models Face Prison

Police confirmed on Tuesday that Irish-born model Jessie Vard, a Facebook and Instagram star in her adopted home of Thailand, had been arrested, as well as four other net models. All face up to one month in prison for promoting illegal World Cup gambling on social media.

According to reports, Vard, 19, told police she was unaware it was illegal to gamble on the World Cup in Thailand.

But in Thailand, all gambling is strictly illegal apart from the state lottery and some state-sanctioned betting on horses. On June 12, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan ordered the launch of “Operation Guarding from Harm and Taking Care of Public Members in the Year 2018,” which possibly loses something in translation.

Police Major General Romsit Weeriyasan, acting secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Office, told the Bankok Post on Tuesday that his organization had joined forces with internet service providers and 36 financial institutions to sniff out online betting operators in the country.

Weeriysasan warned parents that failing to keep their children away from online gambling could result in the seizure of their assets as well as criminal prosecution.

The War Goes Online

The task force said it has detected 100,000 illegal betting sites it believes are being used by people in Thailand, of which only around 100 are operated from within Thailand. Police said most of these sites were legally licensed in Cambodia and are therefore untouchable.

Authorities across East Asia, where sports betting is largely illegal, have reported that their task has become harder than four years ago due to illegal bookmakers’ increased use of mobile technology, messaging platforms, and cryptocurrencies.

“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,” Weeriyasan said.

Nevertheless, Thailand has already arrested more people over the last five days than it did during the entire month-long World Cup in 2014, the year the junta seized power. Four years ago, it claimed 1,700 scalps.