Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin advocates for internet gambling to be legalized in Thailand to boost government income. However, this proposition faces strong opposition due to concerns about potential societal issues and difficulties in regulation and law enforcement.

Thailand currently has strict laws against gambling, even prohibiting private ownership of a certain number of playing cards. Only the national lottery and horseracing are exceptions.

In addition to internet gambling, the Deputy Prime Minister suggests expanding the legalization to other forms of gambling, including sports betting. He argues that the current tax system is ineffective and does not benefit the state or the public.

Thepsutin believes that legalizing these activities, such as bull and cock fighting, under the Interior Ministry’s licensing would generate substantial revenue. This revenue could then be used to support individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and those living in poverty.

Although specific projections are not provided, the Deputy Prime Minister asserts that this initiative has the potential to significantly increase state income and provide assistance to vulnerable populations.

Thespsutin’s proposal to legalize gambling in Thailand has faced significant criticism, with experts pointing out various societal issues that could arise. Economics professor Visanu Vongsinsirikul emphasizes that the internet allows for a wide range of gambling options, making it difficult to regulate and limit participation. He raises concerns about protecting children and adolescents from online gambling addiction and highlights the potential for problems like money laundering and credit card fraud. Another worry is the lack of regulations to prevent underage individuals from gambling online.

Nonarit Bisonyabut, a senior research fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, firmly states that legalizing gambling is not a solution and will not resolve social issues. Despite efforts to limit the scale of gambling activity in Thailand, societal issues related to gambling cannot be avoided.

Bisonyabut suggests that a limited legalization of gambling on a smaller scale, with restrictions on cash amount and frequency, would be ideal. However, he believes this approach is not feasible in Thailand due to the willingness of many Thais to gamble on anything. A comprehensive effort against large-scale gambling is necessary.

This proposal is made in light of another systematic issue involving the central Thai police. On September 25th, cybercrime police conducted raids on 30 locations across six provinces based on reports that eight police officers were involved in online gambling activities. Among those raided were five houses occupied by the deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn.

All the raids were conducted in response to allegations related to an online gambling network known as “Betflix”.

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