Youth warned to avoid life-wreck­ing World Cup gam­bling trap

The Nation - - AROUND THAILAND -

JUST HOURS be­fore the month-long 2018 Fifa World Cup tour­na­ment kicks off in Rus­sia, ad­vo­cates against youths’ foot­ball gam­bling yes­ter­day pa­raded in down­town Bangkok.

They were high­light­ing the 2017 sur­vey which found that 2.4 mil­lion Thais had en­gaged in foot­ball gam­bling worth a re­ported sum of Bt140 bil­lion, while 82.6 per cent of sec­ondary stu­dent pun­ters said they start­ing pick­ing up the gam­bling vice via foot­ball bet­ting.

It was ex­pected that over 10 per cent of Thai youths would place bets on foot­ball matches for this tour­na­ment, said Thai Health Pro­mo­tion Foun­da­tion com­mit­tee mem­ber Wichet Pichairat.

Wichet spoke as he joined with other ac­tivists, the De­fence Min­istry, the Royal Thai Po­lice and 100 youths in a cam­paign dubbed “None will gam­ble on matches in this World Cup” at the Vic­tory Mon­u­ment area.

The cam­paign – aimed to pass on pos­i­tive mes­sages via var­i­ous chan­nels to stop all Thais, in­clud­ing youths, from gam­bling – will also see stu­dents from 10 uni­ver­si­ties pro­duce four short films with anti-gam­bling con­tent to air on­line and via road­shows to 100 sec­ondary schools around the coun­try, he said.

Wichet also cited re­search on gam­bling by youths dur­ing the 2016 UEFA Euro­pean Foot­ball Cham­pi­onships, which found that 16.8 per cent of sur­veyed youths en­gaged in foot­ball bet­ting. Some 10 per cent of this group ini­tially had no in­ten­tion to gam­ble but joined in un­der peer pres­sure or were in­duced by the hy­per-emo­tional foot­ball at­mo­sphere.

About 40 per cent of those youth gam­blers ad­mit­ted to fac­ing sub­se­quent prob­lems, such as de­clin­ing aca­demic per­for­mance, stress from hav­ing a gam­bling debt which they had no idea how to re­pay, and be­ing cheated, he said.

Stop Gam­bling Foun­da­tion chief Thanakorn Khromkit said gam­bling ad­dic­tion is like be­ing trapped by one’s own greed, ex­cite­ment-seek­ing, ex­ag­ger­ated self-con­fi­dence while mak­ing cal­cu­lated guesses, and search for pop­u­lar­ity or peer ac­cep­tance.

A for­mer foot­ball gam­bling ad­dict, 35, who asked for anonymity, shared his life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and a warn­ing. He has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the vice since the age of 17, hang­ing around com­puter-game shops, and mak­ing his first bet of Bt20 on a World Cup foot­ball match. From that, he spi­ralled into the habit, be­com­ing in­volved in gam­bling, and work­ing as a small­time bookie. He was re­peat­edly cheated un­til he owed Bt2 mil­lion to larger book­ies and had to flee his home­town to work in Bangkok as a bank­rupt di­vorcee.

“I stopped gam­bling four years ago and am now work­ing to re­pay debts,” he said. “Gam­bling ad­dicts and those about to be­come one should learn from my mis­take. Stop now be­fore you lose ev­ery­thing – money, ca­reer, fu­ture or even your life.”

Mean­while, deputy Na­tional Po­lice Chief Pol Gen­eral Chalermkiat Srivo­rakan yes­ter­day af­firmed that po­lice would con­tinue to crack down on foot­ball gam­bling, in­clud­ing on­line gam­bling. On the first night of World Cup 2018, he planned to lead a team to visit Huai Kwang dis­trict to con­duct ran­dom checks on foot­ball­broad­cast­ing venues, he said. He warned that youths caught gam­bling may face a max­i­mum three-month jail term, a max­i­mum Bt30,000 fine, or both while their par­ents would also be charged.

Bangkok busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments have been dec­o­rat­ing their premises in the World Cup foot­ball theme, in­clud­ing many mas­sage par­lours on Rama IX Road and New Phetch­aburi Road. In the South, post­men of Songkhla’s Hat Yai dis­trict joined the hype by wear­ing the foot­ball at­tire of var­i­ous na­tional teams while hand­ing out post­cards for the 2018 Fifa World Cup lucky draw.

In the north­ern city of Chi­ang Mai, a black­tip reef shark at Chi­ang Mai Zoo Aquar­ium has “fore­cast” the open­ing World Cup game be­tween Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia would see the lat­ter de­feat­ing the tour­na­ment hosts – which is in line with a June 12 pre­dic­tion by a croc­o­dile at Ubon Ratchathani Zoo.

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