Illegal gambling in Thailand leads to property confiscation worth millions of dollars

Thai police have seized two luxury villas in a popular tourist resort linked to a major illegal gambling operation.

Apr 8, 2024
2 min read
Aerial view of Nai Harn Bay and beach in Thailand. Police have seized two multi-million
Aerial view of Nai Harn Bay and beach in Thailand. Police have seized two multi-million dollar homes in the area linked to illegal gambling


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Illegal gambling in Thailand leads to property confiscation worth millions of dollars

Online gambling is illegal in Thailand. But that doesn’t stop some aspiring entrepreneurs from getting involved. Recently, his business collapsed, leading to his arrest and the confiscation of his luxury villa.

Officials from Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) have seized two upscale resorts worth 1 billion baht ($28.15 million) in Thailand's island provinces. Media outlet Thaiger reported that they were linked to an online gambling network run by a man whom authorities only called Phakphum.

The two properties authorities seized totaled 3.75 acres. Both are located on the same site, offering views of Nai Harn Bay, one of Thailand's major tourist destinations.

Phakphum reportedly holds a senior position at Ufa Bet, an online gambling platform considered one of Thailand's top three illegal gambling networks. Ufa Bet’s online operations are now suspended due to alleged illegal activity.

DSI revealed that Ufa Bet had close ties to senior police officers, including "Inspector Sua", a ex-police officer implicated in a multi-billion dollar gambling scheme. Ufa Bet is accused of carrying out a wide range of illegal activities and working with another network, Pannarong, which has expanded its activities into neighboring countries.

Phakphum, 29, reportedly managed around 80 mule accounts that were used to receive player funds. The accounts involved migrant workers and Thai nationals, with some worth up to 1 billion baht.

Police arrested Phakphum at Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 4 when he was returning home. He initially denied the accusations. However, faced with compelling evidence, he later admitted his involvement in illegal gambling sites.

DSI director Suriya Singhakamol revealed that employees at Phakphum suspected his brother Phuchit of being the owner of Ufa Bet. He fled the country more than a year ago and his whereabouts remain unknown. Additionally, Phakphum's sister Pornpatsa holds a leadership position in the gambling network.

Phakphum reportedly obtained a license to operate a gambling site from an unknown casino network. Ufa is also rumored to generate as much as 72 billion baht ($2.02 billion) in daily sales, much of which may have flowed into the casino network.

Conservative Thailand becomes progressive

Thailand's gambling laws are strict and reflect the government's conservative stance on gambling activities. The main gambling legislation in Thailand is the Gambling Act of 1935, which prohibits most forms of betting and wagering. Traditional forms of gambling, such as casino games and sports betting, are illegal, and the government actively enforces these restrictions.

One notable exception is state-sponsored lotteries, which remain legal and widespread. The Thai government operates lotteries to generate revenue for public projects, and citizens can participate in this officially sanctioned form of gambling. However, unauthorized lotteries and other forms of gambling remain strictly prohibited.

The anti-gambling stance also extends to online gambling. The Computer Crime Act 2007 covers internet-related offenses and participating in online gambling activities may result in legal consequences. Despite these regulations, illegal and illicit gambling activities still exist, resulting in regular raids by law enforcement.

Over the years, there have been some moves to legalize certain forms of gambling, such as casinos, which were proposed but met with strong resistance from conservatives in Thai society. Strict laws remain in place, but the country appears to be moving towards a more progressive gambling climate.

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