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Focus on tackling online gambling in lead-up to World Cup

national March 14, 2018 14:01

By The Nation

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“Please stop promoting and advertising gambling in your online media,” a representative of Thailand Youth Institute cried out loudly at a seminar recently organised to prevent and minimise harm from online gambling.

Patcharapat Prachuablarp, said pop-up ads played a crucial role in the increasing uptake of sport gambling online. Although he had never been interested in gambling, he admitted that the ads, which often appear when he browsed the Internet, had sparked his desire to try it.

“It’s my good fortune not to step into the gambling cycle, but many other children and youths are not like me. I believe many ordinary youths became addicted to Internet gambling because they are victims of gambling marketing, which has a large influence in converting non-gamblers to Internet gamblers,” he said.

He was supported by Wichien Tansirikhongkhon, from Burabha University’s Faculty of Law and Political Science, who spoke at the seminar on “Online Gambling: 2018 World Cup’s Deadly Virus”, organised by the National Health Foundation and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

Wichien referred to research saying that online sport betting ranked highest among all types of gambling due to promoters’ marketing strategies. 

“In recent years, global online sport gambling has grown more than 224 per cent. It’s not only because new technologies are making gambling opportunities more accessible to our children, it is also because the advertisements often come with a free or discounted play coupon. These ads are designed to persuade the receivers to step into online gambling. After that, it’s very hard to step out, as many have already become trapped in financial disaster due to gambling losses.”

Online sport betting is a big challenge for those who have worked for years to prevent children and youth from the harm of gambling.

The challenge they face is especially great with the Fifa World Cup coming up from mid-June to mid-July.

It has been estimated that there are more than 213,000 Internet gambling websites and the Thai government cannot do much in terms of regulation since most of them are based in other countries.

Last Friday, however, 11 state and civil-sector agencies teamed up to tackle youth online gambling during the Fifa World Cup 2018. The agencies – including the Education Ministry, Ministry of Culture, Department of Provincial Administration, Department of Children and Youth, Department of Mental Health, the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, and the Royal Thai Police – signed a memorandum of understanding to prevent and minimise harm related to online gambling.

It covers four areas, with participants agreeing to: Increase public communication and social awareness about online gambling; promote and support the production of knowledge related to the harms of gambling and promote activities for children and youth to help prevent gambling; encourage law-enforcement officers to suppress Internet gambling; and help those who have become trapped in gambling.

Pravit Leestapornwongsa, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications commissioner, admitted that it was quite hard to fight online gambling, as it was impossible to block online gambling websites.

The call of the youth who asked online media not to promote or advertise online football gambling was an attempt to close that loophole. According to Patcharapat, the fight against sport online betting should not be left in the hands of state agencies, but the whole society should move forward together. 

“We might not be able to eliminate the problem, but we can prevent or minimise it,” said Pravit. 


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