Currently, horse racing and the lottery are legal forms of betting in Thailand. Religion is an important factor in the country’s society. In fact, most citizens practice Buddhism, which is Thailand’s most popular religion. According to the religion’s principles, gambling is not acceptable. This is the main reason the government is strict on prohibiting most forms of betting. However, Thais continue to bet underground, online, and in secret. The prohibition is fueling a lucrative illegal gambling market and sending a significant amount of money to licensed, international websites.
Betting Act in Thailand
The 1935 Gambling Act prohibits gambling, except for horse racing and the government-run lottery. Regulators enforce the gambling laws, holding both operators and individual bettors accountable for breaking its statutes.
By 2020, Thailand refused to acknowledge or accept online gambling and continued to block casinos, websites, and sportsbooks from offering online betting options to Thai citizens. In fact, Thailand restricts gambling to the point that citizens may not own more than 120 playing cards. Owning more than two card decks is unacceptable.
Anyone within the country’s borders who participates in illegal gambling is at risk of facing extensive fines or arrest. Not even tourists are safe from sanctions. For these reasons, law abiding citizens stick to betting on horses and playing the lottery. Illegal casino owners are regularly targeted by regulators. Violators risk jail, even for playing traditional games like slots.
Esports is still new to Thailand. It remains to be seen if the evolution of the sport encourages regulators to offer betting opportunities related to popular tournament games. For now, bettors may avoid government blocks with Virtual Private Networks or visit licensed sportsbooks outside of the country’s jurisdiction. Still, the gambling regulations are clear. It is risky to attempt to bet from within Thailand’s borders at unlicensed land-based or online websites, which are not recognized by the Thai government as legal.
For example, simple wagering like Bingo and raffles are prohibited. Fortunately, those who bet in these games are less severely fined, approximately $33, and jail time is unlikely. Yet, regulators crack down severely on operators. If a person is caught at an unlicensed facility during a raid playing a raffle or Bingo, he may find himself in serious trouble. For this reason, online gambling is becoming the choice for Thais who seek to wager in secret. The Act does not cover online gambling specifically, but its wording is broad. So, gambling online is also considered illegal. However, gamblers are more likely to get fined for betting at a land-based facility than an online website.
It's important to remember that Thailand’s betting enforcement evolves, depending on several factors, such as who is in charge. Regulators who focus on land-based enforcement may seek to restrict online betting as it continues to grow in popularity. After all, unlicensed websites are not regulated. The purpose of the Act is to protect Thai citizens. Bettors depositing funds at unlicensed operations risk losing money from disreputable owners.
Sports betting among Thais continues to grow. As esports becomes more popular in the region bets on tournaments, players, and matches are sure to become integral to the region’s gambling landscape. As regulators force unlicensed land-based casinos to shut down, officials are relying heavily on ISP and website blocking to monitor online betting activities. Thai citizens who enjoy sports and esports see online betting as a loophole.