Thais betting not to lose

May 28, 2002 1:53 AM

The Thailand government is ready, able and perhaps willing to become a World Cup soccer bookie for a month.

The top police officer in the Asian country proposed that plan to both Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the permanent secretary of finance.

Police General Sant Sarutanond said that the black market could gain over $900 million in revenues from bets over the month long competition that begins this week in both Japan and South Korea.

Sarutanond, a strong advocate of legalized gambling, said the premier had listened to his proposal, but stopped short of saying whether he liked the idea or not.

"Instead of concentrating our manpower on suppressing burglars and rapists, we have to eavesdrop on suspected illegal bookies," the police general was quoted as saying in "The Nation."

"We can’t stop people from gambling, so why don’t we make them do it in a proper way so that police can go on with more important duties," Sant said.

In a related story, chairman David Marshall told GamingToday that soccer was the most popular sport in the world both in terms of sports and betting interest.

"It’s uncharted territory for us and something we would love to be involved with," said Marshall, whose Internet gaming operation, under U.S. law, is not allowed to expand into foreign markets in any way other than through thoroughbred racing.

Opponents of legalized gambling in Thailand say that Gant’s proposal could backfire.

The local media have been reporting that female students are being forced into prostitution to pay off gambling debts, gambling-related murders and kidnapping. National surveys say that more than 30 percent of the population regularly plays the underground lottery.

The illegal networks operate 24 hours and anyone could place a bet with a phone call without having to put money on the table.

The government lottery office said there may not be enough time to make the necessary preparations.

$40G would suit Ontario

The Ontario Racing Commission is blocking plans for a $230 million theme park in Brockville, Canada in the province of Ottawa.

The ORC wants $40,000 in fees to process their racetrack license application. Under provincial legislation, the ORC is permitted to charge an unspecified amount in process fees.

Construction on 1000 Islands Fantasia was originally slated for 2005, but now may have to be delayed until 2006. Economic development officer Dave Paul said that the racetrack and accompanying machines are essential to the project’s viability.

Paul said the hearings would not likely begin for at least four months.

"The addition of slots has raised the marker," said Wendy Hoogeveen, a representative of ORC. "We’re very careful in investigating applicants these days."

In addition to the track and slots, the project is to include a hotel, observation tower, skating rinks, chip and putt golf courses, a restaurant, roller coaster, multi-screen theater and retail outlets.