BANGKOK — Gambling is strictly illegal in Thailand with few exceptions, but you can bet not everyone listens to the laws; a recent survey of 44,050 Thais nationwide found that more than half of respondents engaged in some forms of gambling.
Based on a study released yesterday, the government-funded Center for Gambling Studies calculated that 57 percent of the population, or 30.42 million Thais, have gambled at least once. The number increased by 14 percent since the survey began in 2017, with the youngest bettor being only seven years old.
Government lottery was the most popular form of gambling reported by respondents, followed by illegal underground lotteries, card games, and football betting. The increased printing of government lottery tickets into the market and media obsession with lucky numbers are blamed for the recent surge of lotto gamblers.
“Although the law bans lottery sales to those below 20 years old, we found that more than 472,000 youths have bought government lotteries,” the center’s director Nualnoi Trirat said. “We also found that the amount of money placed per draw and purchasing frequencies have risen due to media coverage about lucky numbers and winners.”
“The Government Lottery Office also prints more than 100 million tickets per draw, which further promotes more sales because they are widely available,” Nualnoi added.
According to the center, football betting generated the most money, with about 160 billion baht circulating each year, followed by the underground lottery (153 billion baht) and government lottery (150 billion baht).
Decisions to gamble seem determined in part by age. The survey found that 46 percent of young adults (19-25 years old) and 42 percent of elders (60 years old and above) have gambled. Only 20 percent of youths (15-18 years old) said they have engaged in gambling.
The survey did not find a correlation between gambling habit and geographical location or gender.
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also said during Monday’s news conference that technological advancement has led to the rise of new betters.
“Technology has changed gambling patterns, making it more convenient and anonymous,” Abhisit said. “The government should see their policies in the bigger picture, not just pursuing their goals and forget about their consequences on society.”
Curiously enough, although many respondents in the survey admitted to gambling, only 30 percent of them support legalization of gambling.
Supreeda Adulyanont, manager of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, said the foundation funded the study to raise awareness of the threats of betting.
She urged the government to set up an organization to oversee problems related to gambling and push for tighter regulations.
“The government should use taxes collected from gambling to drive public awareness of the dangers and protect youths from entering into a gambling ring,” Supreeda said.
Under the Gambling Act, only 28 types of game are classified as a legal form of gambling. This includes betting on Muay Thai boxers, cockfighting, bingo, government-issued lottery, and table football.