GAMBLING IN THAILAND: LOTTERIES, CARD GAMES, WOMEN AND PROPOSALS TO LEGALIZE IT

GAMBLING IN THAILAND

Gambling, like prostitution, is officially illegal in Thailand and frowned upon by Buddhism yet the country is filled with gambling dens and gamblers. Lottery tickets are on sale everywhere. Bus tickets have a lottery number, and even military service is determined by a lucky draw (red you are in black you are out). Gambling is seen as a social activity and is a common conversation topic, with winners obligated to share their winnings with their friends. It is estimated that Thais spend more time gambling than they do on religion. One of the chief duties of monks in Thailand is to provide numbers for lottery ticket choices and advise on other gambling options.

There is wide variety of gambling options in Thailand. Gambling dens usually feature Thai and Chinese games such as mah jong. There are number games, football pools and cockfights and fish fights. By some estimates sex and gambling account for 10 percent of Thailand’s GNP. By some estimates, Thais spend $10 billion annually on illegal gambling, much of it in huay tai din, or underground lottery houses.

Gambling is done fairly openly in Thailand. Newspapers have listings of underground casinos in each part of town. Informal casinos have been set up in the no mans land between Malaysia and Thailand. I once stayed at a guesthouse in a Malaysian border town that was a cover gambling den. Twenty-four hours a day there were card games going on. Casinos across the border in Cambodia and Myanmar cater mostly to Thais. Powerful politicians, military generals and police commanders are said to have large stakes in these.

Illegal gambling has traditionally made huge profits, even after the bribes to police an other authorities was factored in. Much of the earnings ends up in the hands of organized crime members, Corrupt policemen and politician often get much of their money from gambling industry operators.

History of Gambling in Thailand

Thailand has a long history of gambling. Reports dating from the 10th century discuss the Chinese game of bean guessing as one of the earliest gambling games. British East India documents from 1620 mention gambling as a major vice of Bangkok residents. King Rama III, (1824-51), recognising theThai love of gambling, allowed legal gambling dens throughout the kingdom to generate tax revenue. By the late 19th century, many people were addicted to gambling, which led to increases in bankruptcy and crime. This influenced King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) (1868-1910), to outlaw gambling. [Source: Melanie Brandy, City Life, Chiang Mai, October 2003, *]

A Lottery first started in Thailand in the reign of King Rama V. It was first drawn in an international exposition arranged in the King's birthday celebration. Again in 1917, a lottery drawing was arranged to finance Thailand's entry into World War I on the Allied side. Next, a lottery was used to finance the Thai Red Cross charity works expenses in 1932. Lottery was first drawn to really generate revenue for the government in 1934 to finance the short fall in government income due to the abolishment of draftee tax, levied on Thai males who wished to forego compulsory military service. The drawing was implemented by the Revenue Department. In the same year, lottery operation was also introduced to the provinces to finance the provincial municipality operations. In 1939, the control of government lottery operation was transferred to the Ministry of Finance with the appointment of the first lottery board by the Ministry of Finance on April 5, 1939, which is now held as the founding date of the Government Lottery Office. [Source: Thaitips]

In the mid 1940s the government once again experimented with gambling legalisation for tax purposes. A decree was passed allowing casinos to be run by the Ministry of Finance office. There was one stipulation: only members of the wealthy class were to be admitted. The first casino opened south of Bangkok in the Pranburi District. The Ministers in charge ignored the governmental regulation and opened its doors to anyone wishing to chance their luck. Massive debt slavery and degeneration of social values resulted, causing the media and public to demand the closure of all casinos. The government obliged and they remain illegal today.*

Thai Women and Gambling

According to an ABAC survey reported in the Bangkok Post, 60 percent of the Thai women admitted to having placed bets on football. Out of 1000 women surveyed 62.5 percent of the respondents admitted they gambled even though they were aware it was illegal and could create social problems. Abac said 40.6 percent of those saying they gambled were less than 20 years of age and 75 percent in formal employment. [Source: Bangkok Post, Doing Business in Thailand, November 13 2012]

On this problem, Phuket reported: The previous occupants of this same house were a European guy and his Thai wife. He worked in Europe for six months a year and lived in Phuket for the other six months. He had been doing this for years and when he was in Phuket, they always seemed to have a good relationship. The problem was that for the six months he was away, his wife had to entertain herself. And her vice was gambling. Gambling really does seem to be a major problem for some Thai women. I know several of the Thai wives on our estate play a regular card game. They all say the same thing. It is just a bit of fun for small money. I have seen them play and it is not for fun. They get very intense, there is little conversation and although the stakes start small, they quickly grow. I have heard of women winning or losing as much as 30,000 baht in these 'fun' games. [Source: Know Phuket website Know Phuket, April 22, 2007]

There seems to be something in the Thai mentality that leaves them very open to gambling addiction. Perhaps it is their belief in lucky numbers and fate. Whatever it is, there is good reason why gambling is illegal in Thailand. It is an endless source of problems, especially for Thai women with money and time on their hands such as wives of farang. So every morning this Thai woman set off for her local card game. Sometimes she would be gone for two or three days - they really can play that long. She had been doing this for years and I guess she wasn't losing too much. But then the problems started.

The first sign was when she started asking to borrow money. At first, it was only small sums that we were happy to give her. But then she wanted 10,000 baht. I knew this was a sign of a serious problem. She was chasing her losses. The only way she could repay the money was if she got lucky at cards so I refused her the loan.

Of course, there are other ways to borrow money in Thailand. Once one of these girls is on the slope she will keep sliding. Soon there were rough looking Thai men appearing on her doorstep demanding repayment. She sold their motorbike and started renting one instead. She sold jewelry and furniture but used the money to chase her losses and the loan sharks kept appearing. She started disappearing for a week at a time. It was obvious her situation was out of control. Then she was gone.

I don't think the loan sharks got her. She packed her bags in the middle of the night and ran. There were rumours about how much she owed and for those sorts of sums she would have to do a good job of disappearing. There were calls from her husband asking why he could not contact his wife. When he returned to Phuket, there was no sign of her. She had not returned to her family, or at least not that they would admit. She just ran away from it all, the debts and the marriage.

Thailand’s Underground Lottery and the Corruption That Goes with It

Much of $10 billion spent on illegal gambling in Thailand is said to be spent in huay tai in (“underground lottery houses”). Lotteries were brought to Thailand two centuries ago by Chinese immigrants. In 1874, King Rama V approved the idea for a state lottery introduced by an English teacher. Today, the underground lottery is much more popular than its underground counterpart. In the mid 2000s, Thais spent 108 billion baht on the underground lottery, compared to 36 billion for the government lottery.

Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times: “Thailand’s favorite topic of conversation is probably food, but a close second is the underground lottery. The game, illegal but tolerated, is played by nearly one-third of a population that marries deeply held superstitions with a proclivity for fun. The search for numbers to play is something close to a national obsession, culminating twice a month in the drawing of plastic balls to decide the winners. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 2, 2013.=]

“The lottery is such an important part of Thai life that the country’s leading university, Chulalongkorn, has a researcher devoted to studying it. A survey published in 2011 by the researcher, Noppanant Wannathepsakul, found that 20 million people played the underground lottery in Thailand, out of a population of 65 million. In a modern and cosmopolitan city like Bangkok, there are people, of course, who reject superstition. But it speaks to the Thai ethos of live and let live that the nonbelievers do not criticize those who seek supernatural help for their lottery habit. The attitude is captured in a Thai maxim: “If you don’t believe it, don’t insult it.” =

“The lottery is woven into Thai social life, Mr. Noppanant said. Lottery agents are usually friends who collect bets and do not ask for money until after the drawing. Like many countries, Thailand has an official state-sponsored lottery, but the underground lottery is much more popular, partly because the chances of winning are better, at 1 in 100. The main official prize is much larger, but the odds are 1 in 1 million. The unofficial lottery is part of the vast Thai underground economy, beyond the reach of the tax authorities and not counted in official economic statistics. It is also a rich source of petty corruption: Mr. Noppanant estimates that the police get 11 billion baht, or $362 million, in bribes and protection money from the underground lottery every year. =

For a symbol of the collusion, it is hard to beat a shrine in the Chinatown neighborhood of Bangkok, where Yee Hoh Kong, one of the 19th-century pioneers of the lottery in Thailand, once lived. The shrine, one of the most popular places to seek guidance for numbers, is on the fourth floor of a police station. Lore has it that Mr. Yee loved coffee, cigars and betel nuts, so people leave those things as offerings. (Mr. Yee is also said to have enjoyed opium, but that has since been outlawed in Thailand.) “Not many people come here to report a crime,” said Thassana Pleuangcharoen, a police officer who greets visitors. “Most come for the shrine.” =

Thai Government Lottery

A Lottery first started in Thailand in the reign of King Rama V. It was first drawn in an international exposition arranged in the King's birthday celebration. Again in 1917, a lottery drawing was arranged to finance Thailand's entry into World War I on the Allied side. Next, a lottery was used to finance the Thai Red Cross charity works expenses in 1932. Lottery was first drawn to really generate revenue for the government in 1934 to finance the short fall in government income due to the abolishment of draftee tax, levied on Thai males who wished to forego compulsory military service. The drawing was implemented by the Revenue Department. In the same year, lottery operation was also introduced to the provinces to finance the provincial municipality operations. In 1939, the control of government lottery operation was transferred to the Ministry of Finance with the appointment of the first lottery board by the Ministry of Finance on April 5, 1939, which is now held as the founding date of the Government Lottery Office. [Source: Thaitips]

At present, the Lottery Office issues 14 million tickets for each weekly draw. In the same draw, it also issues two million tickets for sports promotion and seven million for other charity organization. To produce the lottery tickets, the Government Lottery Office operates a modern, large-scale printing press, which also handles printing jobs for other government agencies as well. Future projects of the Government Lottery Office includes a plan to computerize lottery buyers service that visualizes purchasing of lottery and prize payment by commercial banks' country-wide network of automated teller machines.

Each year, the Lottery Office turns in over 4,000 million bath to the government treasury. It also provides 440 scholarships of 20,000 baht each for undergraduates and earmark eight million baht a year for various charities. The office also contributes close to 20 million baht a year for the welfare fund of civil service and military personal, Welfare Council of Thailand, and the War Veteran Association.

The twice-monthly Thai government lottery offers a top prize of about $67,000. How does it work? It's quite simple really: 1) You buy the ticket (s); 2) On the 1st or 16th of the month give ticket to wife or girlfriend; 3) She checks to see if ticket is a winner; 4) She collects the winnings, spends them and says thank you !!

The two- and three-digit lotteries were launched by the Thaksin administration in the early 2000s. The military regime that ousted him ruled they were illegal and the games were scrapped in November 2006. In 2007 there was talk of bringing back the two- and three-digit lottery introduced by Thaksin but the move was opposed by religious and social groups. Buddhist monks have held demonstrations to voice their opposition to legalized gambling.

How Thais Pick Their Lottery Numbers

Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times,” Thais often picking numbers derived from news events or oddities that touch them — the number of ill-formed bananas on a stalk or the appearance of a two-headed fish, cats with strange markings or the pattern a snake leaves in the dirt. Various websites and soothsayers help you interpret these events, with rats viewed as a 1, water a 2, snakes a 5 (large) or 6 (small) and anything related to royalty a 9. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2012]

Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times: “At a bend in a busy Bangkok road stands the Tree of 100 Corpses, a shrine to pedestrians who have died in traffic accidents nearby. People come from all over Thailand to commune with spirits they believe reside in the tree, which is wrapped in golden cloth and surrounded by hundreds of figurines. They also come to find winning lottery numbers. “I made a wish to the tree and asked that the number pop up in my dream,” said Kriengsak Konart, a motorcycle taxi driver who works in the area. The number 45 came to him in his sleep, he said, and he played a variation of it. “I won,” he said. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 2, 2013,=]

“The search for lottery numbers in Thailand can be confusing to outsiders. Many Thais believe that calamity can beget good fortune, and that tragedy may give rise to powerful ghosts who offer guidance on winning numbers. Newspapers report the license plate numbers of cars involved in gruesome accidents. Lottery aficionados note the highway route numbers where accidents took place, tally the casualties and play the numbers. Nothing is seen as too horrible to be a source of good luck, not plane crashes or massacres. =

“This is all about superstition,” said Worawit Srianunraksa, the front-page editor of The Daily News here, which, like other Thai newspapers, runs articles packed with numbers that may be useful to lottery players. “People, especially in rural areas, still believe in ghosts and spirits, things that you cannot explain. And they are able to find numbers in any news event.” =

“Inspiration does not always come from tragedy. Regular lottery players say that numbers occur to them in dreams or cosmically appear in the bark of trees. They may be gleaned from oddities spotted by villagers and reported in the national news media — a six-legged turtle or a lizard born with an extra appendage, to name two that were reported last month. People play the numbers of the hotel rooms where movie stars stay, the prime minister’s birthday or any numbers related to the royal family. At least three magazines in Thailand are devoted to numerology, and several Web sites offer guidance, like a list of 10 places to go in Bangkok for lottery inspiration. (The Tree of 100 Corpses was No. 5.) =

“The search for numbers can be all-consuming. Wimonmas Supavirasbancha, who sells snacks from a food cart in Suphanburi, a city about 60 miles from Bangkok, said she could not concentrate on her work when the lottery drawing neared. Numbers come to her during waking hours and in her dreams. “The best numbers usually come the night before the lottery drawing,” she said. “Sometimes I dream of a jet or catching fish. Everything in dreams can be interpreted into numbers.” (The word jet and the number 7 in Thai sound similar, and Ms. Wimonmas associates the words for fish and the number 8 because they begin with the same letter.) She said she won regularly, but the payouts are small, because she plays only small amounts. =

Fortunetellers and Powerful Lottery-Number-Picking Ghosts

Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times: “But many Thais believe that the best numbers come from powerful ghosts, those who have endured terrible pain or suffering. One of the country’s most famous ghosts is Mae Nak, who is honored at a shrine in southeastern Bangkok next to a Buddhist temple. According to Thai legend, Mae Nak died in childbirth while her husband, a soldier, was away on a military campaign. When he returned, his wife was a ghost soaring through the house. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 2, 2013,=]

“Paan Padthong, 72, one of many fortune tellers who work near the Mae Nak shrine, said that men and women visited for a variety of reasons. Young men ask the ghost for assistance to avoid being drafted into the military. Women ask for help in conceiving a child. Students seek a cosmic boost on exams. Mr. Paan said he felt Mae Nak’s presence floating above the shrine. “As we are talking, she hears us,” he said. Those who go to the shrine for lottery numbers reach into a clay jar and pull out numbered balls. Or they scratch the bark of a tree inside the shrine, looking for digits. =

Mr. Paan said they were trying too hard. “If you are someone who possesses good luck, all you have to do is step into the shrine and you will start to see numbers,” he said. “The numbers will just appear.” The unlucky, on the other hand, need to realize their limitations, he said. “You can scratch the tree all day long, and you’ll never see any numbers.” “It’s a system based on trust,” Mr. Noppanant said. “No one would play numbers with people that they don’t know.” =

Lottery Ticket Machines and Thais Opposed to Them

Reporting from Bangkok, Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “ Siripong Khwanthong sidles up to a lottery seller along a crowded street near Bangkok's Patpong pleasure district, studies the selection and settles on a ticket ending in 37. "The number just came to me," he says. "Maybe I'll be lucky tomorrow." If the government has its way, Siripong soon will be buying lottery tickets from machines. And that's fine with him: Not only would it be more convenient, but it also could save money by cutting out the surcharge that street vendors command selling "lucky" numbers, which can add as much as 50 percent to the $2.70 ticket price. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2012]

But Nipon Sasananand, a 67-year-old with a sprained wrist selling Siripong the ticket from a portable wooden case, strongly opposes the idea. "The machines would be cheaper for customers, so they might not buy from us and we could lose our jobs," he says. "I'm afraid." The state argues that the machines would reduce overcharging by street vendors and increase state revenue by expanding the market for lower-priced tickets and reducing illegal gambling. Critics counter that it will weaken family values and undermine the social order. Still others wonder what the fuss is all about. "Why is everyone so upset?" says Usnisa Sukhsvasti, an editor with the Bangkok Post. "It's all a bit hypocritical. Thai people love to gamble, the more the merrier, and they're happy to have another way."

The government first proposed lottery machines in 2007, then scrapped the idea in 2010 in the face of political opposition before reviving it this year. The government lottery board hopes that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of machines will start disgorging tickets on the street and in shops by January. "We wanted it to be a New Year's gift to the people," says Thanusak Lekuthai, the deputy finance minister. (And to the government too: Some projections suggest the machines could increase its take to as much as $160 million a month from about $33 million.)

Chuvit Kamolvisit, a lawmaker and former massage parlor mogul who recently exposed seven illegal casinos on his Facebook page, said Thailand has been slow to approve lottery machines because many corrupt politicians and criminals worry that a more competitive state lottery will eat into their illegal lottery operations. "They are involved, same as Al Capone's time," he says. "Lottery is like street food.... Illegal casinos are like restaurants." But the gambling operations have little to fear, says Rattaphong Sonsuphap with Chulalongkorn University's Center for Gambling Studies. "Online lotteries will not reduce the size of the illegal lottery nor solve the problem of overpriced tickets."

Activist groups for the disabled also oppose the idea, concerned that many of their members who sell tickets on the street could be pushed out of business. Others opposed to the machines, including teachers and members of the Family Network Foundation, say the proposal could lead children to mistake the machines for video games, spurring addiction. "It's not a positive thing, with more lotteries creating a worse situation for the country," says K. Than, a religion professor at Bangkok's Mahidol University. "It makes people expect to make money without working. Simple people end up sitting idle and dreaming."

Vanchai Ariyabuddhiphongs, a management professor at Bangkok University who has studied the gambling issue, questions whether the machines would corrupt Thai children given how prevalent gambling already is. "Parents ask their small children to pick a ticket, then the parents buy it," he says. "Children here are trained from the cradle." But he still thinks the availability and lower cost of buying tickets will expand gambling without cutting into the share managed by organized crime.

Gambling on Soccer

In the past couple decades Thais have gotten into betting on soccer in a big way. An estimated $1 billion is spent on soccer gambling in the World Cup alone. Over 100 million postcards were mailed in for a lottery to pick the winner of the 2002 World Cup. Several newspapers offered millions of baht in prizes in cash, cars and other valuables

Thais like to bet on European soccer matches, particularly English Premier League games. At least $2 billion dollars in such bets changes hands every year. One bookie in Bangkok told Reuters that his weekly turnover is sometimes as high $12 million. The phenomena has gotten so big that it has spawned its own newspapers and television stations.

To cover themselves bookies in Thailand place bets overseas to cover themselves and minimize their exposure. One bookie told Reuters, "We transfer part of our stakes to bookmakers in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. We usually do this before the kickoff of each match via mobile phones."

In an effort to reduce the amount of money wagered on soccer, the government proposed delaying television broadcast of games by 30 minutes since many bets are placed at last minute right before the games begin. The idea was roundly condemned.

Thai Rummy and Gambling Dens in Thailand

Dummy—Thai Rummy—is one of the most popular card games amongst Thais. Melanie Brandy wrote in City Life, Chiang Mai: “Thai Rummy is a variation of Gin Rummy, played with four people. Due to its popularity, finding someone to explain the rules is not difficult. Like all gambling card games, the stakes and any variations of the rules are determined by the players involved. So, starting in a one baht game at a friend’s house and gaining the courage and experience to find more expensive games elsewhere is entirely possible. [Source: Melanie Brandy, City Life, Chiang Mai, October 2003 **]

“Even though rummy games occur surreptitiously, it isn’t uncommon to discover them the back corners of a bar, or the dark recesses of a public market. As long as the games remain relatively hidden from the public, police intervention isn’t a concern. Learning how to play can facilitate one of the most personal Thai gambling experiences. You could very well find yourself on the floor of a local village home eating snacks, drinking tea, and sharing an evening of cards with three strangers. There are few times one is invited to witness an intimate portrait of Thai living. Playing rummy gives you that window of opportunity. It also opens doors into the dark underbelly of Thai culture. **

Learning Thai Rummy “could be a ticket into the darkest gambling dens in the kingdom...The more rummy that is played, the more the connection network expands. Connections are required to enter one of the most illicit forms of illegal gambling in Thailand—”the Bon Kan Phanon or underground gambling den. Gambling dens vary in size and types of games played. These rooms are a private affair, so mustering up the courage to land an invitation is a necessity. **

For many, the ‘edgy’ the atmosphere at a gambling den can be as exciting as playing. But here, spectating is discouraged and playing expected. Often, prospective gamblers have to demonstrate they have the financial means to play. Expect to bring at least 5000 baht. Playing Rummy here does not involve small change. Stakes are determined by the house. Expect them to be much higher than a casual game in someone’s home. These dens are a business and exist to make money, not friends. A 1999 study from the authors of ‘Girls, Guns, Gambling, Ganja’, estimated the total annual turnover of provincial casinos to be between 8.8 and 142 billion baht (US $216 million to US $3.5 billion), with a gross income calculated at 20 percent of annual turnover. Oftentimes gambling dens are directly connected with organised crime syndicates; therefore, responsible gambling as well as discretion is advised. **

Pok Deng

Pok Deng is a Thai gambling card game in which players aim for a hand whose ones digit beats the dealer's, while taking into account pairs, three of a kinds, and flushes. The game is also known as Pok Kao ( kao means "nine" in Thai) or Pok Paet Pok Kao (paet means "eight") due to eights and nines being high, desirable values. Basic steps of play: 1) The players place their bets. 2) The dealer shuffles and deals two cards to each player, ending with the dealer. 3) Each player may stay or draw one card. 4) The dealer may compare his or her hand against select players. 5) The dealer may draw a card. 6) The dealer compares his or her hand against the rest of the players. [Source: Wikipedia]

Pok Deng supports two to seventeen players, including the dealer, but is recommended for three to nine players. To begin, players designate a dealer. One person may remain the dealer for several rounds or players can agree to switch off being dealer. Each game is fairly short, lasting several seconds to a couple of minutes. Each player, except the dealer, places a bet using cash, chips, or small objects like wrapped candy and places that bet on the table in front of himself or herself. Each player plays versus the dealer only and is not competing with fellow players. The dealer shuffles a standard 52-card deck of playing cards; determines whether to go clockwise or counterclockwise; and deals two cards face down, one at a time, to each player, ending on himself or herself. The remaining cards become the draw pile.

Play goes in the same order that the cards were dealt. During a player's turn, that person has the option of drawing a card (hitting) or not (staying). A player may only draw one card from the top of the draw pile, meaning each player ends up with only two or three cards per game. (Because each player can have up to three cards, seventeen is the maximum number of players before cards would run out.)

If the player's starting hand of two cards has a taem (described below) of eight or nine, that person has pok, announces it, and immediately shows those cards face-up. This is a good hand, and the player may not draw a card. The dealer takes his or her turn last. If the dealer has pok, those cards are turned face-up and all players' hands are compared to the dealer's. If the dealer does not have pok, before deciding to draw a card, the dealer may reveal select players' hands and compare them to his or her own and make the payouts. Then the dealer may draw a card and then compare the rest of the players' hands to his or her own.

Three aspects of a player's hand determine the scoring: 1) the hand type, 2) taem, which is the numerical value, and 3) deng, which is a special aspect that may multiply the bet. The hand's numerical score, taem, is determined by the numerical values of the cards in hand. In terms of each card's numerical values, each ace has a value of one. 2 through 9 have corresponding values of two through nine. 10, jack, queen, and king each have a value of zero or ten. Taem, the numerical value of the overall hand, is simply the ones digit of the sum of the cards, which is why it does not matter whether the 10, jack, queen, and king count as zero or ten. For example, a hand consisting of a 3 and a 2 has a value of five taem. Likewise, a hand consisting of a 7 and an 8 has a value of five taem because the sum, fifteen, has a one's digit of five. A hand with a jack and a 5 also has a value of five taem because the sum, either five or fifteen, has a one's digit of five.

Hand type may be one of four types, in order of decreasing rank: 1) Pok: If a player's starting hand of two cards has a numerical value of eight or nine, that person has pok, announces it, and immediately shows those cards face-up. This is a better hand than any other non-pok. 2) Tong: If a player has three cards in hand and they are all the same number or letter (three of a kind), that person has a three of a kind, called tong. This hand beats sam lueang and has a deng of five. 3) Sam lueang or sam krabeung: If a player has three cards in hand and they are all face cards — jacks, queens, or kings — not necessarily matching, then the player has sam lueang or sam krabeung. This hand beats a normal hand and has a deng of three. 4) Normal: Any other type of hand is a normal hand.

When comparing, or scoring, versus the dealer, the following rules apply. A player's hand may win against, tie with, or lose against the dealer's hand. Players compete against the dealer only and do not compare against other players. The hands are compared in terms of hand type, taem, and deng, in that order. Generally, hand type then the taem determine who wins. The deng is a tie-breaker and also determines how much is won.

For more details o actually playing the game. See the Wikipedia article from which this is derived.

Proposals to Legalize Gambling in Thailand

Thais can legally gamble on the Thai government lottery and at two horse racing tracks in Bangkok but otherwise gambling s illegal. In Thailand much more is spent on illegal gambling than on legal gambling. Thais find illegal gambling much more appealing than its illegal counterpart.In the mid 2000s, for example, Thais spent 108 billion baht on the underground lottery, compared to 36 billion for the government lottery.

Thaksin expanded legalized gambling when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Two- and three-digit lotteries were launched by his administration in the early 2000s. Thaksin wanted to go further. He expressed an interest in legalizing betting on soccer, if for no other reason than to allow the Thai government to get its hands on some of the huge amounts of money that soccer gambling generates. Thaksin also proposed holding a referendum on whether or not to allow Las-Vegas-style casino gambling in Thailand’s poorer provinces. These ideas never came to fruition. When Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup the military regime that ousted him ruled the lotteries that he introduced were illegal.

Proponents of legalized gambling argue it can raise government revenues to finance development projects for the poor, reduce opportunities for corruption, and allow police to concentrate on more serious crimes. They also argue that individuals should have the right to make decision on these matters themselves and if the government doesn’t control it the money ends up in the hands of gangsters and is used to support criminal activities.

Opponents of legalized gambling argue it is immoral and is against ome of the basic precepts of Buddhism, which explicitly condemns it. They also argue that legalized gambling will encourage people to gamble and make it acceptable in the eyes of children. Moreover, it acts like a regressive tax, since poor people are more likely spend a larger portion of their income on gambling than rich people. And on top of that of illegal gambling will probably continue as it unlikely that bookies will cooperate completely with the state.

In December 2001, a survey found that most Thais opposed a proposal to legalize gambling to stem the flow of gambling of Thailand to casinos and gambling dens in Myanmar, Cambodia and elsewhere. In the survey of 1,214 Bangkok residents, 52 percent said the proposal would do more harm than good while 30 percent said legalzied casinos was okay. At that time it was estimated that $2.6 billion in gambling money flowed out of Thailand into Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

In 2007 there was talk of bringing back the two- and three-digit lottery introduced by Thaksin but the move was opposed by religious and social groups. Buddhist monks have held demonstrations to voice their opposition to legalized gambling. In March 2008, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej proposed legalizing casinos and opening some in tourist centers in part so the government could get a share of the billions of dollars that otherwise goes to illegal gambling.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance, Theatre Academy Helsinki, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

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