Thailand has been trying to attract more tourists from China, but has gotten more than it bargained for. Police raided a hotel on Wednesday, dismantling an illegal gambling operation and arresting 26 Chinese tourists, among others, in the process.
Police officers conduct a raid of an illegal casino in Thailand. The sophisticated casino was in a hotel and primarily catered to Chinese gamblers. (Image: Royal Thai Police)
China was one of the most important tourism sources for Thailand before the COVID-19 pandemic. As travel continues to return to normal, Thailand began making it easier for Chinese tourists to visit the country.
This has also given rise to an increase in illegal gambling. Some outfits, like the one the police just raided, work specifically with Chinese gamblers.
Acting on a tip, immigration police conducted a raid on two floors of a hotel in Nonthaburi, just west of Bangkok. There, they uncovered an illegal casino operation, as reported by media outlet Nation Thailand.
The casino had been clandestinely functioning for an extended period, according to the report. It had converted the eighth and ninth floors of the hotel into a covert gambling den, primarily serving Chinese tourists.
Not just anyone was able to access the casino. The entrance to the illegal establishment was secured through the use of key cards, which implies the gamblers had made advanced preparations to visit.
During the raid, authorities confiscated six baccarat tables, six slot machines, and 100 packs of playing cards. They also seized THB3.5 million baht (about US$99,000) in cash and an unspecified amount of gaming chips.
The raid didn’t only ensnare Chinese tourists. Between workers and gamblers, the police arrested 49 people in total, some from Canada, Singapore, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Authorities said that all of the workers were foreign nationals, primarily from China. Not one had permission to work in the country. One person they weren’t able to capture, according to local media, was the owner of the casino. He apparently fled before the raid.
Larger Investigation Underway
Gambling remains prohibited in Thailand, although that could soon change, leading to potential legal consequences for those involved. Individuals found guilty of participating in illegal gambling activities in the country may face penalties, such as fines of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months.
The report from Nation Thailand didn’t provide specific details regarding the potential penalties for the foreigners. However, the investigation is just beginning, and prosecutors are still building their case.
There could be considerable fallout as it continues. A top law enforcement official, Deputy Police Commander Kittirat Phanpetch, plans on launching a massive investigation that will extend into the police force’s ranks.
Based on the assumption that the casino operated for years, he believes it may have received help in keeping a low cover. Kittirat wants to find out if any officers were negligent in their duties, or if they had received bribes to protect the outfit.
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