According to TMB Bank, Thais spend a whopping Bt250 billion each year on an illegal numbers games, betting on the last three digits of the government-run lottery’s first prize.
(Please note that the high-speed train project to link the three airports will cost Bt225 billion.)
Since the odds of winning are 1,000 to 1 against the bettors, the expected profit for the bookies is enormous and they pay no tax.
When Thaksin Shinawatra took office in 2001, he legalised the numbers game, letting the Government Lottery Office (GLO) take the bets itself. His bold act wiped the bookies out of business all across the country and infuriated the “Dons” who financed the numbers game. I suspect it was the main reason that led to Thaksin’s demise.
After the 2006 military coup ousted Thaksin, an ad hoc government ordered the GLO to cease taking bets on the three-digit lottery, surrendering the cash cow to the bookies as before.
The people who finance the numbers-game racket must be very powerful, because no government – except Thaksin’s – has dared to touch them, not even the almighty current junta government.