Thailand might be considering the legalization of casinos. As it does, it still has to contend with illegal operations, like one police recently uncovered at Lake Pine Resort.
Police from Nakhon Ratchasima, a province in the northeastern part of the country, arrested 18 individuals. They were running two gambling websites out of the resort, according to the Bangkok Post.
The illegal websites received at least THB20 million (US$584,600) per month in bets, and had approximately THB900m of cash in circulation (US$26.3 million). The criminals were reportedly operating in Cambodia for four years, but moved to Thailand last year.
Social Media Leads to Fall
The suspects used all 10 rooms at Lake Pine for both gambling websites. Police Colonel Wiwat Jithophakul of the Crime Suppression Division said that officers confiscated 30 mobile phones, 10 desktop computers, and five notebooks. They also seized 12 bank account registers.
Wiwat stated that the raid was prompted by complaints about a YouTuber named “Jah Rok.” He apparently encouraged people to place online bets. From there, police only had to follow the trails.
Lake Pine, located in the Pak Chong district of the province, was apparently on board with the illegal gambling activity. The criminals paid THB30,000 (US$876.60) a month to rent the place, and administrators received THB15,000 (US$538.15) a month in compensation.
The bust is similar to another recent case. This past March, the Thai Police Cyber Taskforce raided a luxury house in Nonthaburi. They had received a tip that 10 suspects were conducting illegal online gambling from inside the property.
The house was rented out for a period of 10 days, according to police. The network operated four websites and had more than 200,000 registered users. It reportedly generated more than THB200 million (US$5.84 million).
The taskforce discovered that the house was part of a group operating in 16 other locations in Bangkok. Those other locations were targets of police raids earlier that same day.
Thailand Considers Casinos
Thailand is one of three ASEAN members that has yet to legalize casinos. It is home to approximately 70 million people, and ranks 20th in terms of population. With illegal gambling a constant battle and an opportunity to generate revenue staring them in the face, legislators have begun a push to legalize casinos.
The leader of the Kla Party, Korn Chatikavanij, has stated that he hopes Thailand will pursue gambling reforms to boost its economy and combat illegal gambling. Kovit Puangngam, a Member of Parliament from the Thai Local Power Party, agrees.
Kovit said that legalizing online casinos would allow authorities to collect taxes from licensees and determine how to punish illegal operators. According to him, Thailand could make THB1.5 trillion (US$43.8 billion) from online casino tax collection and application fees.
A member of the committee exploring the legalization of casinos, who spoke with The Bangkok Post earlier this month, said that the committee will release its findings next month. Previous suggestions by the committee have indicated that Thailand’s first casinos could be located in Bangkok or nearby areas because of their proximity to road connections, airports, and hotel infrastructure.
If the country moves forward with gambling reform, there is at least one major casino operator ready to join. Las Vegas Sands is apparently already talking to Thailand about the possibility.
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