|The Thai police have ordered local Internet service providers to block access to UK-based betting websites in an effort to stem record gambling expected in the kingdom during the ongoing Euro 2004 football tournament. The blocked sites include Ladbrokes, LiveScore and Sportingbet, with additional sites to be included in the next few days. |
‘We have asked their cooperation to temporarily block the access to 11 online gambling websites, all of them located in England,’ said Pongsapat Pongcharoen a police spokesman. Last weekend, the Thai police arrested more than 300 bookies, when the tournament kicked off between England and France.
While football betting is illegal in Thailand, it is a huge underground industry fuelled by the country's passion for football and obsession for gambling on anything from kickboxing to fighting fish. The Kasikorn Bank Research Center, a Thai polling agency estimates that more than US$814 million will be wagered by punters and footy fans during the current Euro 2004 championships.
‘Thai border authorities will be keeping close tabs on returning Thais and scrutinising documents and cash they bring back into the country,’ adds Pongsapat. The kingdom's crackdown has forced thousands of Thais to flock to neighboring Cambodia’s casinos near the border to place bets on Euro 2004.
Observers believe the new clampdown on online gambling is a way of legalizing football betting as a means to cash in on and regulate the massive business.