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.