Fighting Gambling: Thailand bans Gripping Machines 

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The Government of Thailand is expanding its fight against gambling. A few days ago, for example, she banned the operation of gripping machines.

Automatic grippers now illegal

Thailand’s interior ministry initiated the ban through an effective decree, which was passed on February 19. In it, the authority responsible for gambling declares all gripping machines in the country illegally.

Gripping machines are also widely used in Thailand. In a nationwide investigation, the youth protection organization “No Gambling Youth Club” found in 2019 that the machines could be found in 75 of 92 shopping centers tested. According to their information, the organization counted a total of 1,300 of the devices mainly used by children and adolescents in the shopping malls.

The trigger for the ban that has now been pronounced been likely to be repeated criticism by game protectors of the machines. Among other things, lawyer Nutthapong Sampaokaew asked the government at a youth protection conference in January to ban gripping machines from shopping centers.

The lawyer said during the conference:

The machines are located in places that are regularly visited by consumers and where there is no age limit for customers. The critics received support from a ruling by Thailand’s Supreme Court. This had already been decided years ago that gripping machines were to be attributed to gambling.

Prohibited betting business

Laws on Gambling

The reason given by the judges and consumer advocates alike was that the game on the devices was a betting business.

After paying 10 Thai baht (about 30 cents), the players would have no guarantee that they would actually make a profit using the gripper arm.

This should be interpreted as a clear gambling feature and therefore illegal. With the exception of betting on horse racing and a number of state-run lotteries, all gambling has been banned in Asian countries since the 1935 Gambling Act.

According to the ministry, the directive has already been sent to the governments of all provinces. In the future, these should ensure that the ban is enforced through on-site inspections. Business operators who violate the ban must therefore expect a warning. If they repeat, they face fines or even arrest.

Strict legislation in Thailand prohibits gambling

As early as April 1917, King Rama V banned gambling in Thailand. Attempts were made to lift this in the early 1930s, but since 1935 the very strict gambling laws have been firmly anchored in Thailand. To circumvent the strict legislation, Thai people use a wide range of online casinos. These are not yet included in the legislation, but are monitored by the government and are considered illegal.

In addition to the statistical surveys, the researchers also examined the state lottery for the study. This promotes gambling addiction and seduces the population to play, said Dr, Nualnoi Trirat, director general of the Center for Gambling Studies at the Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics.

“Our study found that more than 700,000 people played for the first time this year, and the youngest of them was only seven years old.”

Buddhism and gambling

Buddhism and Gambling

Although religious freedom is basically in Thailand, the king must be a Buddhist by law. Over 90% of Thai people are Buddhists.

At the heart of Buddhist teaching are the so-called four noble truths about suffering, its origin, and its abolition. The goal of a Buddhist life is to live a mindful life and to break the cycle of rebirth by eliminating suffering.

One of the vices that lead to suffering and thus to ruin is gambling in Buddhism. It can lead to addiction, crime, and financial problems. Nevertheless, it is an important part of Thai ceremonies and celebrations.

Sports betting most popular according to a study

The researchers also found that in addition to horse racing, Thai people also like to bet on cockfighting and bullfighting. Football betting would be extremely popular. According to the study, the estimated annual turnover here was around 160.5 billion THB (4.8 billion euros).

In contrast, the permitted state lottery is considered unattractive and, with a turnover of 150.4 billion THB (4.5 billion euros), is only third behind the underground lotteries with 153.1 billion THB (4.6 billion euros) Place. Despite the long-standing ban on gambling, the participation of Thai residents has increased by 1.5 million in the past two years to currently 57% of the population.

Young people particularly at risk

According to the study, games of chance are particularly popular among young people and those over the age of 60. While 42.2% of seniors like to play, almost every second among young adults aged 19 to 25 (46.3%).

But the high number of young people under the age of 19 – at least 20.9% – is particularly worrying for the researchers.

Supreda Adulyanon, CEO of Thai Health, said:

“WHO has classified gambling addiction as a mental illness that belongs to a group of disorders related to mental health, behavior, and neurological development. Many who are unable to stop addiction have lifelong problems, including mental and physical problems, family debt, violence, or crime. ”

According to the Ministry of Health’s Center of Gambling Studies, there are few psychological services for addicts in Thailand and very few addicts seek medical help because it is seen as a social problem.

Overall, the study shows that strict laws alone do not appear to be able to protect the population from the potential harm of gambling.

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