Are There Casinos In Thailand?

Thailand
credit: Yay

According to one popular song, the world is your oyster after just one night in Bangkok, making Thailand a premium destination for thousands of people each year. Unlike other Asian countries, however, their laws on gambling may surprise you and leave you wondering if there are any casinos in Thailand.

There are no legal casinos in Thailand, and the only two forms of gambling permitted are the state-run National Lottery and Horse Race betting. Gambling in Thailand was banned under the Gambling Act 2478 (1935). Tourists who wish to gamble must travel to neighboring countries to do so.

Related: Are there nude beaches in Thailand?

About 95% of the Thai population are Buddhist, for whom gambling is strictly forbidden. While you may see casinos on your travels, make no mistake, they are illegal in Thailand. It could have serious consequences if you participate. Below is all the info you need about casinos in Thailand.

What Forms Of Gambling Are Legal In Thailand?

Only two recognized and legal forms of gambling are allowed in Thailand: buying tickets in the National Lottery, operated by the Government Lottery Office (GLO), with tickets on sale twice a month, each with a corresponding draw.

Thai lottery tickets being sold at the market
Yay Thai lottery tickets being sold at the market
Thai government lottery tickets
Yay Thai government lottery tickets

The other legal gambling option is betting on horses at recognized racetracks. The two most popular venues in Bangkok are the Royal Turf Club of Thailand, established in 1916, and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, established in 1901. Both are worth the visit for the experience and their history.

Can Tourists Visit Casinos In Thailand?

The short answer is: No, as a tourist, it is not advisable to gamble in any way or visit any casinos in Thailand. No matter how legitimate they may seem or what ways others may use to persuade you, it is best not to do it.

Because gambling is illegal, any person found in a casino or anywhere where gambling is taking place is liable for a fine of up to 1000 Baht or a sentence of one to three years in a Thailand prison.

Anyone caught participating in any form of gambling except the two government-sanctioned means of gambling, the Thailand National Lottery and horse race betting, will face criminal charges. 

You may want to visit an illegal casino for the experience and atmosphere while you are there, but even if you are only in the building and not gambling at the time and even if there was no money exchanged, being caught in a casino may mean facing criminal charges.

Because raids on illegal casinos are common, there is a good chance you will be caught in the act. Rather, stay away from any gambling except the two state-sanctioned ones above! Many others have experienced this first hand where tourists have been deported, given hefty fines, or imprisoned after being found guilty of gambling.

Are Illegal Casinos Common In Thailand?

As you travel through Thailand, you may come across a casino or hear of a casino operating somewhere.

While some of these illegal casinos may appear legitimate and open to the public, take note that in most cases, particularly in large cities, these will almost always be away from the public eye. This is already an indication that it is an illegal casino. 

You may even come across more than one illegal casino in your travels. That’s because while gambling is illegal in Thailand, many Thai people still enjoy going to these illegal casinos and are willing to risk being caught for the thrill of gambling.

Specifically, the Gambling Act of 1935 prohibits all forms of gambling, publishing two lists of prohibited activities. In the first list, betting on animal sports or blood sports, Roulette, slot machines, and other forms of direct gambling are listed as illegal.

The second list goes even further to include other forms of gambling that you may take for granted in your home country but are illegal in Thailand. These include games of chance like raffles, bingo, sports betting, etc. It is advisable to stay away from these games as well.

Suppose you see illegal casinos or other gambling. In that case, you may say to yourself, “Well, when in Romeā€¦” but it is never advisable to knowingly participate in any illegal activity when traveling.

Why Are Casinos Illegal In Thailand?

Because all gambling, besides the national lottery and horse race betting, are illegal, it follows that casinos, the places where gambling takes place, are also illegal.

Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. According to the religion of Buddhism, all forms of gambling are a sin and are to be avoided. In line with this, the Thailand government has implemented this understanding into law, making all gambling and places of gambling illegal.

Unlike some other Asian countries, there are not any regulatory laws surrounding casinos and gambling, in some ways pushing illegal casinos and gambling to spring up. 

One of the exceptions to this, the national lottery, indicates how regulation can reduce the amount of illegal gambling in Thailand. Since the introduction of the government-regulated lottery in 2003, the number of illegal lotteries has reduced significantly, leading some to believe that laws prohibiting gambling may eventually be overturned.

Can You Use Online Casinos When Visiting Thailand?

You may wonder if one loophole is to gamble online while in Thailand. However, while there is no direct law prohibiting online casinos in Thailand, they are still considered illegal by Thai police and officials and should be avoided.

While it is far more difficult for the Thai authorities to monitor and track online casinos, with the help of cybersecurity teams, they do regularly track down, shut down and block these sites.

If you’re not convinced yet that you shouldn’t use online casinos while in Thailand, consider that because these are illegal, there is no regulatory body to lodge a complaint with should an online casino not pay you out your winnings or be found cheating in any way. 

Many Thai nationals get caught out this way, don’t let the same happen to you!

How To Visit A Casino When Traveling In Thailand

The only legal and realistic way to visit a casino and gamble while visiting Thailand is to hop across the border into Cambodia and visit one of the many legal casinos there. Gambling and casinos are legal in Cambodia, and many Thai nationals and tourists alike travel there to gamble.

Most popular Cambodian casinos are only three to four hours from Bangkok by bus. Some companies even run special bus routes to and from these casinos. Be careful of scams and exorbitant prices for these services, however.

Are Casinos Popular In Thailand?

Visiting casinos in Thailand still seems to be a popular activity for many Thai people.

An estimated 70% of Thai adults admit to regularly using illegal gambling services. These may be illegally operated casinos or one of the many online casinos, which makes casinos still very popular in Thailand despite the laws prohibiting gambling.

Other sports betting, such as football and golf, are also popular, despite their illegal status, as many police raids lead to thousands of people being arrested during big sporting matches every year.