Author Topic: Long odds in online lottery fight  (Read 477 times)

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Offline thaiga

Long odds in online lottery fight
« on: August 05, 2012, 01:17:27 PM »
Better educated and more affluent punters are placing their underground bets on gambling websites and officials tasked with stopping them are facing an uphill battle due to the challenges posed by the internet and what critics say are weak laws

The multi-billion baht illegal underground lottery is spreading online, with punters able to bet 24 hours a day on both lottery numbers and stock market numbers around the world

But police say there is little they can do to stop the betting bonanza as most of the operators are based outside Thailand _ many in neighbouring countries _ and are believed to be backed by prominent political and business figures. They also complain that the penalties for involvement in these illegal operations are too weak to be a deterrent.

The dean of Rangsit University's College of Social Innovation, associate professor Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, said the underground lottery was undergoing rapid change, with the ability to place a bet now only a mouse click away. In the past, gamblers needed a personal connection or word of mouth information to bet on the illegal lottery, but now it's simply a matter of surfing the web.

Mr Sungsidh says easier access to gambling has resulted in the increased involvement of educated people earning higher incomes.

''Online underground lottery gambling has increased because it meets the demands of gamblers who normally don't hope to win the six-digit lottery [as the odds are very long] but wish to gamble on two or three digits, which only requires a smaller outlay,'' he said. ''It's much more convenient to use an online bookie. The online illegal lottery has also become an option for better educated people because in the paper-based system punters need to have personal connections, but betting online means they don't have to know or meet anyone.''

No official survey has been conducted of online lottery operators, but Spectrum found at least six online. One claimed to have more than 10,000 members, while another put the figure at 5,260.

Under the traditional underground lottery system, bookies take bets from gamblers betting on what the last two or three numbers of the official government lottery will be. Although unsophisticated, this increases the chances of a gambler winning, albeit much smaller sums. Returns on a one baht investment are typically 65 to 80 baht for two correct numbers, and 500 to 750 baht for three correct numbers.

Bets are placed prior to the first and 16th of each month, when the Government Lottery Office and the Government Savings Bank lotteries are drawn respectively. Illegal daily wagers can also be placed on the last two digits after the decimal point of the Stock Exchange of Thailand index closing figure.

But the web opens a whole vista of betting opportunities, as wagers can be placed around the clock on the closing numbers of stock markets around the world such as the Nikkei and Dow Jones.

Pol Maj Naughtakid Phromchan, of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, told Spectrum that ''It is more difficult to prove who really arranges the underground lottery online.'' Policing the traditional underground lottery was easier as it was simply a matter of arresting people and gathering evidence after locating a gambling venue. But most online operators have websites hosted on servers in neighbouring countries or further afield, making it difficult for police to trace the owners.

''Nowadays operators have their websites hosted in foreign countries such as China, Singapore and Malaysia, where we're not authorised to examine or collect evidence,'' Pol Maj Naughtakid said.

He agrees with Mr Sungsidh that better educated people are involved in online betting because of the technology involved. This partially explains why the operators have been able to expand their gambling empires, as they can reach a wider customer base.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.