Thailand is one of the most-popular tourism spots in the world. It offers the perfect mixture of beaches, culture, history, temples, and bustling cities to keep visitors entertained.
Commercial casinos are one aspect, though, that’s absent from Thailand. You won’t find an MGM or Sands casino anywhere in this country. You’re also not going to have countless premier gambling sites at your fingertips either.
Can you even gamble legally in Thailand? If not, do people still find ways to place bets in the Land of Smiles?
The following guide answers these questions and more while discussing the Thai gambling scene, laws, and how you can place wagers here.
The Thai Gambling Laws Are Very Unfriendly
Buddhism, which is easily the main religion in this country, preaches that gambling is a major vice. As a result, the national government bans most forms of gambling. Meanwhile, the large Buddhist majority doesn’t have much of a problem with it.
The Gambling Act of 1935 prohibits all types of betting, except for horse racing and lotteries. The latter must be run by the government. This is fairly common for laws about gaming that were written before the availability of online and mobile gaming.
This nation is so strict about gambling that it won’t even allow people to own too many playing cards. Anybody who has over 120 cards (just over two decks) is technically in violation of the law. This makes it challenging to play some popular card games that require more than two decks of cards.
As for online gambling, the law in Thailand doesn’t mention anything about it. After all, the Gambling Act is over eight decades old.
However, one could only assume that mobile gambling is illegal too because it doesn’t fall into the horse racing or lottery class.
The Thai Ministry of Digital Economy and Society certainly didn’t give a vote of confidence to online gambling. In 2020, they blocked dozens of online sportsbooks and casinos.
The Underground Gambling Scene
Those living in or visiting this country can’t exactly walk down to the local casino. Technically, there aren’t supposed to be any casinos within Thailand’s borders.
That said, the casino and poker scenes have been pushed underground. Plenty of illegal casinos and poker rooms operate in Bangkok. This is little surprise when considering that Bangkok has a metropolitan area of 14.6 million.
Of course, these casinos aren’t exactly the most-reputable establishments. If you’re merely visiting as a tourist, then you probably won’t even know where to find them.
You’ll need to have some knowledge of the locale before figuring out where the underground casinos and poker rooms are. Even if you do find the gambling hotspots, you stand the chance of getting robbed, or worse, by going.
Maybe you’d find the authentic experience of a seedy casino to be exhilarating. For safety purposes, though, you’re probably best off hitting one of the many legal casinos that you can gamble at nearby in Cambodia.
Some of the notable Cambodian casinos include Poipet Princess Crown (Krong Poi Pet), Holiday Palace Casino (Aranyaprathet), and Grand Diamond City Casino & Hotel (Krong Poi Pet).
Will You Be Arrested If You’re Caught Gambling in Thailand
As mentioned before, government-approved lotteries and horse racing betting are legal in this country. Therefore, you at least have a couple avenues to gamble legally.
Assuming you brave the aforementioned Bangkok underground casinos, then you definitely stand a chance of being arrested and fined in Baht (THB).
Thai laws are very strict regarding slot machines, baccarat, and other traditional casino games, which fall under the Gambling Act’s “List A” category. If caught playing any of these, you’ll face up to a 5,000 THB (US$165) fine and possible jail time.
You’re also not supposed to play bingo, participate in raffles, or bet on sports. However, these activities fall under the less-severe “List B” designation. List B penalties include up to a 1,000 THB ($33) fine and, although unlikely, potential jail time.
If the police raid an illegal casino where you’re playing, for example, then you’ll quite possibly be in big trouble. Assuming you’re merely playing a low-stakes bingo game, on the other hand, then the authorities might turn a blind eye to you.
Can You Safely Gamble Online in Thailand?
The authors of the Gambling Act wrote this legislation so long ago that they could’ve have conceived the internet. As a result, nothing about real money online gambling is included in the laws.
You could technically argue that you’re not violating any codes by wagering at online casinos, poker sites, or betting sites. However, the Gambling Act is broad enough to where it could still cover any type of unregulated gambling—online or live.
The reality of the situation is twofold:
- Online gambling is probably illegal in Thailand.
- The government doesn’t seem to care about matter too much.
The second point is the key here. If you play at mobile gambling sites, then you’re highly unlikely to get in any trouble.
While the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society blocked URL’s of gambling sites, the government hasn’t taken any serious action in this matter.
I can’t find one instance of anybody being arresting for betting online alone. Instead, the only reported busts center on those operating illegal gambling sites from within the country.
Given how strict Thailand is on the matter, I can’t 100% guarantee that you or somebody else won’t get arrested for mobile betting someday. However, you’re almost assuredly okay to do so without fear or legal risk.
I’m not an attorney and I can’t recommend doing anything against the law. The smartest thing to do is contact an attorney who is an expert in gambling law to find out the exact legalities involved.
This is an important area where it’s important to be safe instead of sorry. No bet is worth ending up in prison. In fact, if you gamble in Thailand you’re gambling with your freedom.
Even if the chances of going to prison are miniscule, is it worth it? Only you can answer this question, but you can get some advice from a professional.
Unregulated Online Gambling Is the Only Option
This country doesn’t approve of nor regulate online gambling. Therefore, you’ll need to take your chances with unregulated sites when visiting this nation.
Of course, Thailand isn’t the only country that’s served by unlicensed operators. Australia, Canada, Nigeria, and the US are just some examples of countries that have access to many unregulated mobile casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks.
Nevertheless, you need to take the same precautions before trusting Thailand online gambling sites just like you would in any other unregulated nation.
The problem with sites that don’t hold licensing in the country they’re serving is that they could theoretically get away with anything. A rogue operator could offer faulty games, fail to make payments, or refuse to pay out bonuses.
Luckily, these scenarios don’t happen with the majority of gaming sites. After all, any site that behaved this way would quickly draw a bad reputation and lose numerous customers. But you should still be on guard whenever signing up and depositing at an unregulated site.
You should read multiple reviews on whatever Thailand online casino, poker room, or betting site you’re considering. Such research will ensure that you pick a quality gambling site.
Thailand isn’t the most-tolerant country when it comes to gambling. It does offer a few opportunities in the form of horse racing betting and lotteries—but nothing else.
All other gambling opportunities fall under the unregulated or illegal category. Underground casinos, poker rooms, and bookies do exist in Bangkok and some of the smaller cities. However, these are also dangerous ways to gamble that could see you wind up behind bars or robbed.
Mobile gambling is your best option when living in/visiting Thailand. Authorities don’t seem to care about the online scene, which means that you can get away with it.
You’ll be dealing with unregulated sites, though, so you should definitely research any site before blindly depositing at it. Doing so improves your chances of picking a fair-and-honest operator.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …