Euro 2024 sparks fear of billion-baht gambling addiction among Thais

As the world counts down to Euro 2024, concern is growing that the tournament will trigger gambling addictions among Thai football fans who get hooked on betting on match outcomes, experts said on Tuesday

May 21, 2024 - 20:46
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Euro 2024 sparks fear of billion-baht gambling addiction among Thais

Euro 2024 sparks fear of billion-baht gambling addiction among Thais

As the world counts down to Euro 2024, concern is growing that the tournament will trigger gambling addictions among Thai football fans who get hooked on betting on match outcomes, experts said on Tuesday.

In a 2021 survey conducted by Chulalongkorn University, football betting was ranked as the fourth most popular form of gambling among Thais, according to Kongkan Takhiranyit, director’s assistant at the Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s social risk control promotion department.

“Some 3.8 million Thai people bet on football in 2021, up 300,000 from 2019,” she said, adding that Thai gamblers have lost an estimated 181.68 billion baht betting on soccer.

She expects more Thais to become addicted to betting on matches during Euro 2024, highlighting the risk of children accessing gambling online.

“The foundation is collaborating with relevant agencies to encourage fans to enjoy football tournaments without betting on them,” she said.

The foundation will launch campaigns in Chiang Mai, Si Sa Ket, Chonburi, Suphanburi and Trang to promote awareness of football gambling’s dangers during this summer’s tournament.

Twenty-four European men’s national teams will compete at Euro 2024, which will be hosted by Germany from June 14 to July 14.

Recognised as a disease

The World Health Organisation has declared that gambling addiction is a disease because the activity can spark an insatiable desire for reward, said Thanakorn Komkrit, secretary of the Stop Gambling Foundation.

“Gambling addicts repeat their actions because the activity impacts their brain function,” he said, likening gambling disorders to shopping addiction.

Anticipation of rewards from the betting habit causes adrenaline to flow through the body, he added.

Thanakorn noted that even high-profile footballers had succumbed to betting addiction, citing the struggles of England football legends Peter Shilton, Paul Merson, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

“Shilton and Merson have revealed how their gambling habits replaced the excitement they felt while playing football,” he said.

He stressed that urgent solutions were required for gambling addiction in Thailand as the disease was impacting younger generations’ quality of life and even the Thai sports industry itself. The key was finding alternative ways for people to enjoy sports competitions in a creative manner, he said.

Thanakorn also pointed to restrictions imposed by other countries, including Britain’s ban on professional sportspeople sharing insights that could encourage people to gamble on results.

He cited the inspirational remark made by former England goalkeeper Shilton after he recovered from a gambling addiction: “Addiction is giving up everything for one thing, recovery is givingup one thing for everything.”

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