Readers' Submissions

Gambling Underground

  • Written by T
  • May 18th, 2004
  • 5 min read


Initially in my relationship with my girlfriend of four years there was a great deal of mystery concerning money. I am not one of these rich tourist / retirement expats who can afford to lose my money hand over fist so when my girlfriend was continually asking for money I got rather concerned. This may sound very familiar to many of the long term readers of Stickman's guide but I hope this may throw some light on the situation for a few of the ne comers and those yet to venture to the land of smiles.

Gambling is illegal in Thailand except for government lotteries and certain government sponsored gambling (Go figure). However for many years the general population has continued to gamble and their fascination with this entertainment is beyond anything I have seen in my home country. I reason that it is probably the stakes and jackpots which pay out more money than a working Thai can earn in a year which maintains the participation levels of this illegal and closely monitored pastime. Although many forms of gambling exist and thrive here in Thailand the one which is most widely used is gambling on the Stock Exchange. This is known as die-din (underground). How this works is that gamblers pick numbers between 00-99 as many as they choose and in denominations which they must specify, along with the date and time of the gaming. This list of numbers and amounts is then logged with a broker. This network is vast and disorganized both due to the police and the amount of money changing hands on a daily basis. Once these numbers are logged with a broker the gambler will wait until the Stock Exchange closes, either at about 12.30 PM for lunch or 4 PM for the day. The numbers that are played are the last two digits after the decimal point as shown on Thai television, under the title of SET Index. Depending on the gambler's relationship with the broker they may have to pay the money in advance, but by and large the relationship is good enough and close knit enough to play the numbers first and balance the books after the market closes. In the case of winning numbers the player can not normally hide their excitement and are very keen to go and visit so-and-so, so that they can receive their winnings. The pay out is around x80, I'm not sure how you write this accurately. For 10 THB on a winning number you will receive 800 THB, for 20 THB you get 1,600 THB, for 100 baht you can win 8,000 baht. This of course is normally subject to the stake money due to the broker, but is a significant amount of payout in a country where employees with bachelors degrees earn about 8,000 – 12,000 baht per month.

If you don’t have a winning number, again it really comes down to the relationship with the broker. Most brokers will expect to be paid by the end of the day. This is due to the fact that all except the richest of brokers who can pay the winnings themselves, most brokers will have logged the popular and high rolling numbers with another broker for insurance. The very worst situations arise from the brokers who have a running account. Sometimes they feel that they know the gambler so well and especially if the gambler has a farang boyfriend to pick up the bill, they will let the account run for several days at a time. If you're lucky the total winnings will just about cover the outgoings. If you are unlucky then no winning numbers help to cover the spread and you will be confronted with a demand for money. If you decide not to pay then the broker will probably involve the local thug to put the pressure on.

In the event of the police finding out the gambling is going on then normally all bets are off and depending on the fine presented to the broker you will get your money back or not. Most brokers like to keep a regular clientele and keep them coming back for more so they will defend the gamblers to a large extent. In the event of your partner being caught gambling it is normally best to seek the help of the broker and fellow gamblers as they are likely to be involved to a larger extent anyway. Play it cool and make sure they understand that your pocket is limited. Smile a lot and be extremely sorry, apologize to the officials and if you have to make a point then let your partner visit the local prison. They will be charged with illegal gambling and released in approximately 24-48 hours with a fine of around 5,000 baht.

To most of us farang the concept of gambling takes a completely different perspective from that of the Thai philosophy. Dreaming is a very important consideration in most Thai people and great importance is put on any number of things which to us appear to have happened by chance. A road accident will have a crowd of bystanders, of course for the blood and guts on the road but also so that they can glimpse a registration number which may be lucky for them. The theory that someone else was unlucky with the number supposedly increases their chance of being the lucky one. If your girlfriend wakes up and tells you she dreamed about a fish, an air plane, her cousin etc etc then you can be sure that they all represent a certain number and the chances of winning are increased dramatically!

For me it took a trip to prison, a hard line on the finances and monitoring how my girlfriend spends her time, to overcome her gambling problems. I do not condone illegal gambling and would warn farang to stay out of any kind of trouble with the Thai authorities but if this helps in anyway to increase the understanding between relationship starters then I've achieved my goal.

Stickman's thoughts:

A lot of girls on the fringe lose everything gambling. It is sad to see it happen.