Thai police arrested more than 80 individuals after discovering an illegal casino that was operating without a license in an established hotel in Pattaya, a city in Thailand’s Chon Buri province. Among those apprehended in the pre-dawn operation on Monday was Chikoti Praveen, a well-known figure and junket operator in India’s gaming industry, according to the police. Several politicians were among those arrested, according to the Times of India.
The establishment was apparently a very well-organized operation. Indian gamblers could purchase an all-inclusive package for THB50,000 (US$1,460) to visit the casino run by a Thai local. The price included transportation, meals, and accommodations, but not gambling money.
The operations gaming equipment allegedly came from India, and its arrival, as well as the illegal operation, may have had support from the government. Thai police are investigating a rumor that government officials knowingly allowed the casino to operate in exchange for a bribe of THB2 million (US$58,740).
Thai law enforcement officials detained 83 Indian nationals, four people from Myanmar and six locals. The primary suspects in the case currently remain in custody. Some of the arrested gamblers have been released. Officers confiscated various items, including baccarat and blackjack tables, playing cards and chips, and a large number of Indian rupees.
Gambling is still illegal in Thailand, except through strictly-controlled options. The only legal gambling currently offered includes state-run lotteries and horse race betting. The penalty for illegal gambling could be two years in prison and fines of as much as THB20,000 (US$587).
The establishment was further linked to India through the arrest of Praveen, a well-known name in the Indian gambling scene. Praveen denies any involvement with the casino, claiming he had received an invitation to participate in a four-day poker event. Only 15 minutes after his arrival, the raid began.
That has led the gambling entrepreneur to claim that he was set up by competitors looking to take him out of the picture. Thai police released him and his entourage as the investigation continues. Praveen has previously run into legal trouble because of his activity, which he regularly flaunts on social media. A year ago, police raided his house after a gambling trip and accused him of money laundering. In 2007, he was arrested for allegedly organizing a makeshift casino in the Indian city of Hyderabad in Telangana.