|Thailand’s Police General Sant Saruntanond has called on the government to go into business as a bookie to counteract an underground network of illegal bookmakers. |
The “black economy” of illegal bookmakers in this soccer-mad country is expected to take more than 10 billion Baht ($234 million), and with the soccer World Cup due to start in a few days, Saruntanond says that police resources are being stretched in a losing battle against illegal soccer betting networks that encompass workplaces, schools and universities.
“Instead of concentrating our manpower on suppressing burglars and rapists, we have to eavesdrop on suspected illegal bookies,” he was quoted as saying in The Nation. “We can’t stop people from gambling, so why don’t we make them do it in a proper way so that police can go on with more important duties?”
Sant’s plea comes at a time of growing concern in Thailand -and neighbouring countries that gambling could get out of hand during the World Cup and force many people into debt.
However, opponents of legalised gambling say that Sant’s proposal could backfire as legitimate bookies struggle to match the advantages and appeal of underground betting rackets, which do not have to pay tax.