A Centre for Gambling Studies (CGS) survey has found that more than 700,000 people who gambled this year were first-time punters, with the youngest being only seven years old.
CGS director Nualnoi Trirat said the centre has been studying the gambling habits of Thais across the country since 2017.
According to Ms Nualnoi, the study found that as of this month, 30.42 million Thais, equivalent to 57% of the country’s population, engaged in some sort of gambling. This was an increase of 1.4 million gamblers since the the study began in 2017.
“Our study found that more than 700,000 people who gambled this year were first-time gamblers and the youngest of them was only seven years old,” she said.
Of the 30.42 million gamblers surveyed this year, 733,000were 15-18 years old or about 20% of people in this age range; 3.05 million were aged 19-25 years (46%); and 3.3 million gamblers were 60 or older (42%).
The most popular form of gambling was the government lottery, followed by illegal underground lotteries and football betting.
“In terms of money generated by gambling activities, football betting came out top with about 160 billion baht circulating each year, followed by the underground lottery with 153 billion baht, and government lottery with 150 billion baht,” Ms Nualnoi said.
According to Ms Nualnoi, news coverage of government lottery winners is pushing more and more Thais to try their luck.
“The Government Lottery Office prints more than 100 million lottery tickets for each draw, which far outstrips the country’s total population of about 68 million people,” she said.
“This promotes a gambling habit, and incentivises people to buy more tickets.”
She urged the GLO to take a serious look at the long-term potential harm of gambling to society.
Supreeda Adulyanont, manager of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, said the foundation set up a working unit in 2010 yo spearhead a public awareness campaign about the dangers of online gambling and to push for tighter regulations on gambling.
“We believe access to gambling must be tightened and we urge the government to come up with policies which do not promote such activities in society,” Dr Supreeda said.
Dr Supreeda said Thailand should follow other countries’ examples and set up a panel tasked with preventing occasional gamblers from becoming gambling addicts.
“[The government] should also offer services to wean addicts off their gambling habit and provide assistance to the gamblers’ families,” he said.