THAILAND BLOCKS ONLINE GAMBLING SITES

June 15 THAI police ordered local internet providers to block access to England-based betting websites in an effort to stem record gambling expected in the kingdom during the ongoing Euro 2004 football tournament.

“We have asked their cooperation to temporarily block the access to 11 online gambling websites, all of them located in England,” police spokesman Pongsapat Pongcharoen said.

The blocked sites include Ladbrokes, LiveScore and Sportingbet, he said, with police preparing to extend their investigation to additional sites if needed.

Football betting is illegal in Thailand, but it is a massive underground industry fuelled by the country’s passion for football and obsession for gambling on anything from kick-boxing to fighting fish.

Respected Thai polling agency Kasikornbank Research Center estimated $US814 million ($1.17 billion) would be laid down by punters during the three-week European championships.

Thai police arrested more than 300 bookmakers and punters on Saturday, the first day of the tournament.

The kingdom’s crackdown has forced thousands of Thais to flock to neighbouring Cambodia’s casinos near the border to place bets on Euro 2004.

Pongsapat said border authorities will be keeping close tabs on returning Thais and scrutinising documents and cash they bring back into the country.

Thailand mulled legalising football betting last November as a means to cash in on and regulate the massive business but no decisions have been made. Check out คาสิโนเว็บไหนดี

SINGAPORE: UNDERGROUND BOOKIES EMERGE ONLINE

SINGAPORE : As underground bookies in Asia increasingly look outside the region for online gambling licenses, big gaming companies are urging Asian governments to fully legalise internet betting.

The Asian betting industry rakes in about 100 billion US dollars annually, 80 percent of which comes from illegal transactions, according to the managing director of UK-based online betting company BetFair Asia, Tim Levene.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the illegal market is a hundred thousand times bigger than the existing legal market,” Levene told a gaming conference in Singapore last week.

“From a governmental point of view, and I think if you spoke to authorities, it is a nightmare to manage.”

The president of gaming consultancy firm Playtech’s Asia Pacific division, Tom Hall, told AFP that underground bookies in Asia are voluntarily seeking government regulation by trying to acquire licenses to set up gaming websites.

But because independent gambling operations have not been legalised across most of Asia, these bookies are instead looking towards countries such as Antigua, Costa Rica and Curacao for their licenses, Hall said.

“They don’t have to live there to get a license. They have to set up their servers and computers and a small part of their staff in those countries, but most of the operations take place in their own countries,” he said.

Online gaming is still a legal grey area in most Asian countries except Hong Kong, where legislation forbids punters to bet with anyone except the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Hall said the Cagayan Economic Zone in the Philippines is the only jurisdiction in Asia that is allowed to publicly issue “interactive gaming licenses”.

But because the legislation is still new, it has not yet begun granting licenses.

Hall and other pro-gaming advocates said that if governments do not start regulating the market soon, they will continue to lose out on tax revenue while doing little to control the explosive growth of underground sports betting.

For example, Hall said the ongoing European football championships are pulling in twice as much in underground betting revenues as the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

And on an average weekend during the European soccer season, the eight or nine major underground bookies in Asia make about 150 million US dollars each, he added.

Asian governments are showing increasing signs that they are prepared to relax their anti-gambling attitudes, with Thailand and even Singapore’s conservative government considering allowing casinos on their territories.

But BetFair Asia’s Levene reflected industry sentiment in expressing frustration about the pace of change.

“Just to get governments to talk about this is the greatest challenge,” he said.

“If you could tell the government they need to have no expertise in sports betting, no expertise in technology, no massive investment and you could eradicate illegal gambling overnight, you would think most governments would take it right out of your hands.”

And Levene claimed that as the Asian betting industry grows, the lack of regulation in the market will prove to be an increasing problem for governments.

“There are higher incidences of problem gambling in countries where there is little regulation. The longer you leave it unregulated, the more crime becomes a problem,” he said.

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