Police arrested about 15,000 punters and 600 bookies in their operation to suppress football gambling before and during the Fifa World Cup tournament, and had also contacted other authorities to close 200 soccer-betting websites, said deputy National Police Chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan on Tuesday.
And now they are worried about violent crime over unpaid gambling debts.
Speaking after a meeting of football-gambling suppression investigators at the Royal Thai Police head office in Bangkok, Chalermkiat noted that police had also confiscated assets worth Bt51 million as evidence and seized the assets of criminal suspects during the May 1 to July 15 operation.
In one case, police had also punished negligent parents of a minor arrested for being involved in football gambling, he added.
Chalermkiat said the 2018 Fifa World Cup, held in Russia from June 14 to July 15, saw an increase in the number of gamblers compared to the previous tournament four years ago because smartphone technology has allowed people convenient access to websites to place bets anytime and anywhere.
Police would now monitor for crimes related to the collection of debts, said Chalermkiat. He cited a previous report that found 11 provinces had experienced a spike in money being borrowed from loan sharks during the tournament – possibly to fund punters' bets.
With the tournament over, many people who lost money from gambling may be unable to repay the loans, he said.