World Cup Gambling: Police Action Sees More Than 12,000 Arrested in Thailand

Posted on: December 26, 2022, 08:54h. 

Last updated on: December 26, 2022, 12:24h.

In the run-up to this year’s FIFA World Cup, it was no secret that illegal sports betting was going to be a potential problem. Countries took different approaches to combat the issue, and Thailand’s plan seems to have made a significant dent in the underground market.

Deputy National Police Chief General Torsak Sukhwimon
Deputy National Police Chief General Torsak Sukhwimon speaks to reporters in November. The high-ranking official led a task force that arrested more than 12,000 for illegal betting during the World Cup games. (Image: Thai Newsroom)

The World Cup was always going to be big business for the sports betting industry, and the results prove how successful it was. Projections put the figure at more than $160 billion, not including what passed through illegal channels.

That’s enough to make a lot of people look to score, even if it means breaking the law. While some may get away with it for a while, there are more than a few in Thailand that probably wish they hadn’t.

Thai Police Snuff Out Illegal Betting

Thai police established a dedicated anti-betting group ahead of the World Cup, whose sole job was to figure out who was betting illegally and where. The group launched on November 19 and wrapped up its operations on December 18, the day Argentina beat France to take the title.

During that time, according to media outlet Thaiger, police arrested more than 12,000 people for their involvement in illegal wagers on the World Cup. In the process, they seized cash, real estate, vehicles, and property from those either running or participating in the activity.

The value of all of it was reportedly THB1.7 billion (US$48.87 million). However, that’s still only a fraction of what bettors spent. Thailand believes that as much as THB11 billion (US$316.25 million) in wagers may have changed hands.

Thailand prohibits virtually all forms of gambling, although a push is on to bring legal casinos to the country. The only form of legal gambling consists of state-run lottery products.

The police had some help breaking up the illegal betting operations. Thaiger quotes the Royal Thai Police as saying that it wanted to thank those who provided tips about the activity.

The fact that the World Cup is over doesn’t mean Thailand is going to slow down, either. Deputy National Police Chief General Torsak Sukhwimon, who led the police group, wants to continue the crackdown on illegal betting and gambling. If his recent success is a gauge, he shouldn’t have trouble finding support from the chain of command.

From Soap Opera Star To Porn Entrepreneur

Getting hands wrapped around the illegal gambling industry in Thailand is going to be a challenge. It’s even more difficult when brazenly led by high-profile figures who apparently don’t link their statuses with increased scrutiny.

Last week, Thai police arrested a popular soap opera star, Thamolphan Phanuchitputthiwong, and her husband for running illegal online porn and gambling websites. The husband, Phumphat Prasertwit, allegedly set up the networks, but Thamolphan ran the show.

The couple didn’t mind flaunting their wealth. They had 14 cars, including several Ferraris, four houses, high-end watches and more. All were among the items police seized. They also discovered 44 bank accounts that held additional assets, and all of them now become state property.

It took two years for investigators to build their cases against and, two online platforms that offered online gambling and porn, respectively. During the investigation, the police irrefutably traced the money back to the TV star and her husband, as well as a third man, Chetchai Hongkham. He was responsible for helping launder the THB700 million (US$20 million) the couple earned from their side hustles.