Thai activists rally for UEFA bets crackdown

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Bangkok, June 13 (IANS) Dozens of activists gathered in front of the Royal Thai Police headquarters in Bangkok on Monday to demand stricter action against illegal betting in the ongoing UEFA European championship.

Demonstrators dressed as mock soccer fans and carrying signs with slogans condemning the activity were joined by police officers, who tore up pieces of paper with the word ‘gambling’ printed on them in a symbolic gesture of the impending crackdown, Efe news reported.

Betting on the UEFA tournament has already led to two raids on gambling dens in the capital on Friday and ten arrests of alleged bookies.

Earlier this month, authorities established an anti-gambling task force to combat illegal betting on the high-stakes soccer games running until July 10.

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Although gambling is illegal in Thailand, with only the national lottery and betting on horses at race tracks permitted, laying odds on sports teams at international competitions is still big business, with Thais wagering 43 billion baht ($1 billion) on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, according to the Gambling Sites portal for enthusiasts.

According to a 2012 study by Mahidol University, Thailand is home to an estimated 26 million gamblers, 1.9 million of whom are under the age of 24.

Adolescents are also more likely to engage in sports betting than other types of gambling, according to the study.

It also noted that 85 per cent of youths who gambled in 2012 reported negative mental health consequences, with 1.5 per cent reported to have considered suicide to escape debts incurred through wagering.

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