A Guide to Thailand Casino Gambling

thai bahtThis page is a guide to casino gambling for residents of Thailand. It covers many topics including Thai gambling laws, popular casinos games, and visiting casinos in Cambodia and Laos. Before getting to those topics, I feel it is important to provide advice to anyone interested in playing at online casinos.

Thai Baht Online Casinos

There are many online casinos advertised on Thai language websites that are unregulated. This is worrying because their games are not tested for fairness; furthermore, getting paid on a win is not guaranteed.

The good news is there are well regulated casinos that Thailand residents can use. The ones generally accepted as most trusted are listed below.

  • Rank
  • Site
  • How to Deposit
  • Language
  • Visit Site
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  • 138.com
  • Bank Wire / eWallet
  • Thai / English
  • www.138.com

Bodog88 is the Asian version of Bodog which has been in the online casino industry since 1994. Dafa888 is the online casino brand of Asian Logic, which is one of the top gambling operators in the whole of Asia. 188Bet is a gambling site white listed on the UK stock exchange who also sponsor several leading sports teams.

Not only are these casino sites safe based on their reputation but, they are each legal and licensed by a government authority. The licensing body checks their financial status to make sure player money is set aside, and sends reputable auditors to test their games for fairness.

While none of the sites listed are Thailand based, each does support many languages including Thai, and many currencies including baht. They also have bank accounts from all over the world including Thai bank accounts.

You can deposit and withdraw using online banking, or make a transfer at your local bank branch or ATM.

What are the Local Options?

In Thailand we do not have legal land based casinos. These were banned under the Gambling Act in B.E 2478 (1935). Under this law, the Thai National Lottery and Horse Race Betting are the only forms of legal gambling. Although unlawful gambling carries a fine of 1,000 Baht, up to 1-year in prison, and can result in cash used for gambling being seized, this has done little to stop its popularity.

All over our country casino games are played. It is done at almost every funeral in the Northeast and in underground casinos located in homes, apartments and even rented office space. According to Chulalongkorn University Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit up to 70% of Thai adults are regular casino gamblers.

While many people play casino games here, this often doesn’t mean the same games the rest of the world plays. Understand we are the only Southeast Asian nation that was never colonized. Those who are proud of this, sometimes point out the word Tai (ไท) – which means independence or freedom – is part of our name. They claim that when we changed our name from Siam to Thailand in B.E. 2482 (1939) that we adopted a name that could be translate to mean Freedom Land.

The point here is that Europeans did not introduce 21, baccarat, roulette, craps and similar games here a century ago the same way they did to the rest of the world. Still today, not all Thai people are familiar with these games. Plenty are, as most of our neighboring countries now have casinos and we have many tourist, expats, and Thais who have lived elsewhere in the world and returned home. But overall we have our own games that are the most known.

Most Popular Thai Casino Game

The most popular casino game in Thailand is Hi Lo (ไฮโล). This is essentially a mini version of the game known around the world as Sic-Bo and Tai-Sai. Below is a YouTube video that shows it being played.

I live in Northeast Thailand and the same scene shown in that video can be found at every funeral I have ever been to. About a decade ago there was press coverage regarding professional gamblers who attend funerals, and how these are mafia ran with huge bribes paid to police. This in my opinion was mostly propaganda.

The gambling done at funerals is mostly friendly and is good for the spirit of our community. In the Buddhist faith funerals are a celebration of life. We have big three day parties, where we drink, drink and drink some more, and eat, eat and eat some more, plus gamble, have fun, and generally have Thai dancing (concerts) at the end. The police tend to turn a blind eye to this form of betting as it is a long running tradition.

Thai Card Games

Card games are also popular in Thailand, but not as much so as Hi Lo. Another law rarely followed is the Playing Cards Act from B.E. 2486 (1943). This makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute or possess playing cards. The only issue with this is we can’t buy playing cards in 7-Eleven, Tesco Lotus, or Big-C the same way it can be done other places in the world. For this we need to buy at local markets that sell contraband or in duty-free shops at the Laos borders.

When we do have playing cards the popular game in most communities is either Gao Gae (เก้าเก) and Pok Deng (ป๊อกเด้ง). Each is similar to baccarat, but has different rules regarding the draw. These games are particularly popular with women. At funerals often outside looks like the video already shown, and inside the video looks similar to what is shown below.

It’s important to understand that card game rules differ by region. In fact, both Gao Gae (เก้าเก) and Pok Deng (ป๊อกเด้ง) are most commonly just referred to as poker which in the Thai language is pronounced more like poke-gurh and is written โปเกอร์. An English language write up of one of the ways this game is played can be found here.

Thai Casino Travel

In addition to online casinos, games such as baccarat, blackjack (21), roulette, craps and tai sai are also played in land based casinos. While we do not have legal casinos in Thailand, we do have them right near our borders to Cambodia and Laos. As a gaming enthusiast I have visited most of them. Details on each are listed below.

Cambodia Casinos

We have several Thailand to Cambodia border crossings and every single one of them has a number of gambling options. In this section I break them down based on their distance from various points in Thailand.

Bangkok to Cambodia

For those in the Bangkok region looking to gamble, the place to head is Aranyaprathet District of Sa Kaeo Province. Depending where you live in Bangkok, and on the traffic that day, this is around a 2.5 to 3 hour drive (maybe less). Here you cross into Poipet which is the most popular destination of Thai nationals.

For Thai passport holders it is possible to use Poipet casinos without getting stamped into Cambodia. This is because when leaving the country Thai passports are not stamped. Therefore you can walk through the domestic line at the Thailand side exit, gamble, and then walk right back into Thailand with no stamps involved. While there is an entire strip of casinos here, if you’re also interested in sports betting, Crown Casino is the best. They have been licensed and operating from Poipet since 1999.

Trat and Ko Chang to Cambodia

If you live in or near Trat, or are visiting Ko Chang, and want to gamble, the border to head to is the Cham Yeam crossing. This connects Hat Lek of Thailand with Ko Kong of Cambodia. If you are here just to gamble, from the border you can’t miss the big casino. If you also want to see nice beaches, a zoo, and other attractions, refer to Wikitravel: Koh Kong.

Surin to Cambodia

If you live near Surin and want to gamble, the crossing to head to is the one that connects Chong Jom, Thailand with O Smach. This is a hugely popular crossing with Thai gamblers. In fact, you don’t see many farang or tourists at this crossing, just gamblers. There’s not much there on the Cambodia side other than hotel-casinos. If you’re going there for tourism and sight-seeing, you will need to continue 35 km north to Samraong, or a couple hours to Siem Reap.

Si Saket to Cambodia

This is not a popular border crossing for anyone other than locals. The town you’re traveling into is Anlong Veng which you can read about on that WikiTravel link. Some irony involved here: Communist revolutionary Pol Pot who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998 once said a casino would exist in this city over his dead body. Well this came true. Not too far from his final resting point you can find Anlong Veng’s first casino.

Chanthaburi to Cambodia

From Chanthaburi there are two border options. The one I suggest is about an hour bus ride away to Ban Pakard District where the border crossing is to Phsa Prum. Between the two checkpoints the road is very remote. As you near the city (about 1 km from it) you’ll find the 7-Story Crown Diamond Casino and Hotel and a little further is the Victoria Casino Hotel.

The other border is not used much. It connects Ban Laem in Phetchaburi Province with Daun Lem. Here you will find only a small outpost casino.

Thailand to Phnom Penh

The Mecca of gambling in Cambodia is not near a Thai border. It is their capital city Phnom Penh. While you can find bus tickets in the 550-850 baht range from Bangkok, the trip is 14 hours. Far more ideal is flying. For this, Cambodia airlines generally have better prices than Thai ones. The most popular and cheapest for this route is most often www.cambodiaangkorair.com. The top place to visit in Phnom Penh is Nagaworld. It is Las Vegas style, with slots, table games, a poker room and a sportsbook.

Laos Casinos

The best option for Thais to visit in Laos is no doubt Savan Vegas. You can find details on their getting here page. This is a full Las Vegas style casino with its own VIP rewards card program, a nice hotel, plenty of slots, table games, and a sportsbook offering football betting.

Savan Vegas is located in the Savannakhet Province of Laos. The border crossing to here is in Thailand’s Mukdahan Province. While it’s a bit of a trip, this is the only legit Las Vegas place to gamble within driving distance of Udon Thani and Khon Kaen. It is also a decent option for Ubon Ratchathani residents. For those living outside the general vicinity of these mentioned provinces, it is not too convenient a location. To get here from Bangkok the best way is an AirAsia flight from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport (DMK) to Nakhon Phanom. From here it is a 90-110 minute bus ride to Mukdahan.

Note to Farang: I imagine most of you dread doing visa runs. The good news is that Savan Vegas offers a visa run package. They do all the work for you at the Thai Consulate in Laos, while you stay in their hotel and play games.

Back to speaking to Thai people – understand all border crossings from Thailand to Laos have a small outpost casino that we can use. The only one of these I have personally visited was at the Nong Khai crossing on my way to Vientiane. It is set well in the back and is not marked. Perhaps coincidence, perhaps not, the majority of its patrons when I was there were Thai police. It is friendly enough with a small handful of European-style games such as Roulette, Baccarat and Blackjack.

There is another Las Vegas style casino in Laos that is not near a Thai border. This is Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort which mostly targets Vietnamese. If interested in visiting you can search on google.co.th for details. However, unless you have another reason to visit, the effort it would take to get there might be better spent going to Singapore or Malaysia, or if having a higher budget, to Macau.