Is gambling still illegal in Thailand?

horses race
(© Daren Whitaker –

When we say Thailand, the first things that come to mind are the tropical vibe, culture, food, exotic beaches, Safari World zoo, Sanctuary of Truth, and many other attractive tourist spots. But not all tourists visit Thailand just for fun on a regular basis. Some tourists also try to test their luck and skills by earning money in foreign currency. Yes, we are talking about gambling in Thailand. The Thai playing rules are quite specific and have a lot of restrictions. Today we are going to talk about how to play in Thailand and not to break the law.

Is gambling still illegal in Thailand?

Short answer – yes, but there are two exceptions. We will get to that later. Thailand has not always been against gambling. As for history, hundreds of gambling games have been introduced to Thailand by foreign traders and immigrants. Gambling culture exploded at the end of the 19th century, which caught the attention of the general public, there were legal gambling dens. During the time of King Rama III, these legal gambling dens were promoted by the government as a source of income. But due to an increase in the number of criminal activities and bankruptcies, during the reign of King Rama V, gambling was declared illegal and these gambling venues were closed in 1917.

The first law on games of chance was passed in 1930 and revised in 1935. In Thailand, the law on games of chance has two sections: List A and List B. List A contains games of chance involving players. animals such as cock fighting, dog fighting or bullfighting; other types include roulette-type casino games and slot machines. List B, on the other hand, contains games of chance like bingo, sports betting, etc.

There is another law in addition to the Gambling Law, which is the Playing Cards Law of 1943. According to this law, about 120 types of playing cards are prohibited. Illegal card making, playing with cards without involving money, even owning playing cards can get you in trouble!

So, is there no gambling in Thailand these days? Of course there is; Hope you don’t expect to find them in broad daylight, however! Small-scale gambling can be found on the streets, but these are mostly table games based on luck. If you want to show your skills in the big games, you have to go to the underworld. All of these games of chance are still illegal.

What type of gambling is still legal in Thailand?

As mentioned earlier, only two types of gambling are legal in Thailand. One is the government sponsored lottery and the other is horse racing betting.

The lottery was first introduced in Thailand by Chinese immigrants; it is both sponsored and governed by the Thai government. Lottery tickets are said to have been first issued during the time of King Rama V and were used as a tax collection system during the time of King Rama VI. From that point on, the lottery was seen as a common source of government revenue and is still legal. The lottery takes place twice a month, one on the 1st day and the other on the 16th day. 60% of the total sales value is returned to players as prizes, 28% is kept as government revenue, and 12% is spent on the administration and management of the entire event.

Horse racing is not very abundant, although it is legal. There are a total of 8 racetracks, of which seven are operational. There are two racetracks in Bangkok. The low-income group mainly forms the spectator side, while the running events serve as a place for networking between the elite classes.

Are land-based casinos legal in Thailand?

There are no legal land-based casinos in Thailand, but there is still darkness under the lamp. Illegal casinos are abundant in Bangkok, it goes without saying that they are all underground and run by local cartels; better if avoided. In addition, these casinos can be raided by the police at any time without notice, and the punishment can be severe.

As these casinos are unregulated, crime and betrayal are normal things. There is always a possibility that the bookmarkers will hold the winning amount, and you have to accept that your money is gone. You cannot report these frauds to the authorities, otherwise you will be arrested and even jailed.

Even with all these obstacles, if you want to play legally, you can visit the neutral zone i.e. the border near Cambodia, where you can find legal casinos.

What are the penalties for gambling in Thailand?

The penalties for the game can be quite severe. The penalty for List A game type can be up to 5,000 Thai Baht, and the penalty for List B game type can be up to 1,000 Thai Baht and one year in prison. Except for these, bettors can be arrested and jailed even if no money is involved in a simple card game.

Nowadays, sports betting is also very popular in Thailand in addition to traditional gambling. According to reports, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, more than 1,400 people were arrested, most of them bookmakers. So it is wise not to hang around with these shady companies in Thailand.

Is it safe to play at online casinos in Thailand?

Due to difficult access to underground gambling dens and recurring police raids, online gambling is relatively safe. Not to mention that online gambling is also illegal in Thailand. However, it is safe to play online slots at to avoid the authorities; there is no authenticity on online transactions. We hear that winnings are withheld and transactions do not reflect any amount in the winner’s account. Many online casinos operated in Thailand can be traced and disrupted by the authorities, but the majority of these online casinos are operated by foreign countries, in which case the Thai government cannot take legal action. Not only do people from Thailand participate in these online casinos, but people from other countries who are prohibited from participating in their own country’s online gambling sites also have fun in online casinos in Thailand!


The gambling scene in Thailand has reached such a level that the gambling ban makes it more difficult to control crimes related to illegal gambling. It has become a sore throat for the Thai government. If you are visiting Thailand, you should never participate in such illegal activities because, if caught, the punishment may be imprisonment in a foreign country.

Tomas Green story


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