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Is gambling still illegal in Thailand?

horse racing
(© Daren Whitaker –

When we say Thailand, the first few things which come to our mind are the tropical vibe, the culture, food, exotic beaches, Safari World Zoo, Sanctuary of Truth, and many other attractive tourist spots. But not all tourists visit Thailand just for the sake of regular fun. Some tourists also try to test their luck and skills by earning some foreign cash. Yes, we are talking about gambling in Thailand. Thai gambling rules are quite specific and have a lot of restrictions. Today we will talk about how to gamble in Thailand and not break the law.

Is gambling still illegal in Thailand?

Short answer- yes, but there are two exceptions. We will come to that later. Thailand was not always against gambling. As far history goes, hundreds of gambling games were introduced in Thailand by foreign traders and immigrants. The gambling culture boomed in the late 19th century, which got mainstream attention, there were legal gambling dens. In times of King Rama III, those legal gambling dens were promoted by the Government as a source of revenue. But due to an increase in the number of criminal activities and bankruptcy, during the reign of King Rama V, gambling was declared illegal, and those gambling venues were shut down by 1917.

The first Gambling Act was passed in 1930 and was revised in 1935. In Thailand, the gambling law has two sections- List A and List B. List A contains blood-sport type gambling involving animals such as cockfights, dog fights, or bullfights; other types include roulette type casino games and slot machines. List B, on the other hand, contains gambling games like bingo, sports betting, etc.

There is another act besides the Gambling Act, which is the Playing Cards Act of 1943. According to this act, around 120 types of playing cards are banned. Illegal manufacturing of cards, playing with cards without involving money, even owning playing cards can get you in trouble!

So, is there no gambling occurring in Thailand in the present day? Of course, there are; I hope you are not expecting to find them in broad daylight, though! Small-scale gambling can be found on the streets, but those are mostly luck-based tabletop games. If you want to show your skills in big games, you have to go to the underground world. All this gambling is still illegal.

What type of gambling is still legal in Thailand?

As previously mentioned, only two types of gambling are legal in Thailand. One is the Government-sponsored lottery, and the other is betting in the horse race.

The lottery was first introduced in Thailand by Chinese immigrants; it is both sponsored and governed by the Thai Government. It is said that lottery tickets were first issued in the era of King Rama V and were used as a system for tax collection in the age of King Rama VI. From that time lottery was seen as a common revenue source for the Government and is still legal. The lottery is held twice a month, one on the 1st day and the other on the 16th day. 60% of total sales value is returned to players as a prize, 28% is retained as Government revenue, and 12% is spent on administration and management of the whole event.

Horse racing is not widely abundant, although being legal. There is a total of 8 racecourses, among which seven are operational. There are two racecourses in Bangkok. Mainly the lower-income group forms the spectator side, while the race events serve as a venue for networking between the elite classes.

Are land-based casinos legal in Thailand?

There are no legal land-based casinos in Thailand, but there is always darkness beneath the lamp. Illegal casinos are abundant in Bangkok, needless to say, those are all underground and run by the local cartels; best if avoided. Moreover, these casinos can be raided by the police anytime without notice, and the punishment can be hefty.

As these casinos are not regulated, crime and treachery are normal things. There is always a possibility that the bookmarkers may hold the winning amount, and you have to accept that your money is gone. You cannot report these frauds to authorities, or else you will get arrested and even get imprisonment.

Even with all these hurdles, if you want to gamble legally, you can visit the neutral zone meaning the border near Cambodia, where you can find legal casinos.

What are the penalties for gambling in Thailand?

Penalties for gambling can be pretty harsh. The penalty for List A gambling type can go up to 5000 Thai Baht, and the penalty for List B gambling type can be up to 1000 Thai Baht and a year in jail. Except for these, bettors can be arrested and imprisoned even if no money is involved in a simple card game.

Nowadays, sports betting is also very popular in Thailand besides traditional gambling. According to the reports, in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, more than 1400 individuals were arrested, most of them were bookies. So, it is wise not to hang around these shady businesses in Thailand.

Is it safe to play online casinos in Thailand?

Due to hard access into the underground gambling dens and recurring raids by the police, online gambling is relatively safe. Not to mention, online gambling is also illegal in Thailand. However, it is safe to play slots online on to avoid authorities; there is no genuineness about online operations. It is heard that the winnings are held back, and transactions do not reflect any amount in the winner’s account. Many online casinos which are operated within Thailand can be traced and interfered with by the authorities, but the majority of these online casinos are run by foreign countries, in which case Thailand Government cannot take any legal actions. Not only do people from Thailand participate in these online casinos, but people from other countries who are banned from participating in their own country’s online gambling sites get indulged in Thailand’s online casinos too!


Thailand’s gambling scene has gone to such a level that prohibiting gambling makes it harder to control uprising crimes involved with illegal gambling. It has become a sore throat to the Thailand Government. If you are visiting Thailand, you should never participate in such illegal activities because, if caught, the punishment can be imprisonment in a foreign country.

Story by Tomas Green

augusta free press
augusta free press