Officials Swoop in to Seize Unregistered Dartboards

Image: Ann-dabney / Flickr

BANGKOK — The national darts association said pubs and sport bars that wish to offer the sport must register their equipment lest they be confiscated by local authorities.

The warning came amid complaints from establishment owners in Pattaya that they are being targeted by officials demanding dart permits. Thailand Dart Association chairman Vichai Govindani said the crackdown is supported by a 83-year-old law that lists darts, bingo and numerous other sports as gambling.

“It has always been illegal,” Vichai said. “If you play at home, it’s not illegal. But if you play at a commercial venue, it’s considered part of business, and it might be associated with gambling. You need a permit for it, like snooker and pool and bingo.”

Online reports in the past month have detailed accounts of local officials raiding pubs catering to foreigners in the resort town of Pattaya and asking to see their permits. Owners who fail to show a relevant license have had their equipment seized.

Vichai said the law is enforced not by police but municipal officials.

Asked why the authorities are suddenly getting tough on a ubiquitous and seemingly benign sport such as darts, Vichai said it’s one of those crackdowns that comes in cycles.

“In the past there was crackdown, too, then it disappeared for some time,” Vichai, who has been playing darts for more than 30 years, said in an interview. “Now it’s back. But it’s good. At least it might make people interested in the sport.”

Chonburi Gov. Pakarathon Tienchai said he has no information about specific raids, but maintained that officials are required by law to crack down on any act of potential gambling.

“If they play for fun, it’s not a problem. But if it could be gambling, we have to take action,” Pakarathon said. “Officials have to see if there’s any gambling involved.”

A 1935 law lists dozens of sports and games as gambling, including darts, bingo, lottery, billiards and mahjong. Those who wish to play or organize matches require permission from the state under the pre-WWII legislation.

Vichai said his association can issue the necessary permits free of charge to any establishment that requests one from his association.

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Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at and followed on Twitter at @teeranai_c. He began working for Khaosod newspaper in 2012 before switching to Khaosod English in late 2013. His interests include politics, crime, the monarchy and the latest Naga sightings.