John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Kiwi expat arrested in Thailand for online gambling

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A New Zealander has reportedly been arrested in Thailand after police raided an illegal gambling den in the seedy tourist hotspot Pattaya.

After an eight-month investigation, Pattaya police entered a bar called the Ned Kelly this month. Local cops planted an undercover foreign informant to place bets on races at the bar, the Pattaya Mail reported this week.

Philip Smith, 59, was said to have been arrested earlier this month, as were six Australians. The Pattaya Mail said the Thai bar owner escaped and Smith had already confessed to police.

The expats' friends would allegedly visit the bar to watch live horse races from Australia.

Smith was accused of taking bets from customers. The Australian races were broadcast to Pattaya punters over the internet. Smith was accused of accepting bets and paying according to the website rate, while also receiving a commission.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was investigating this weekend.

"We are following up with the Thai authorities in relation to the media reports of a New Zealander arrested in Pattaya, Thailand," a spokeswoman said.

The ministry had not yet received any requests for consular assistance."

Martial law and curfews have been imposed on Thailand this week after the military seized power in a coup and scrapped the country's constitution.

Online gambling in Thailand is illegal, with betting allowed only on the official state lottery and in domestic horse racing.

"Law enforcement is far more concerned with illegal gambling dens and local bookies than they are with residents using foreign betting sites licensed abroad," the Sportsbetting website stated.

"In the times they do show an interest...a 1,000 baht ($36) fine generally settles the matter with no record filed."

Various gambling information websites indicated Thai's illegal gambling trade was worth billions, even tens of billions of dollars annually.

Numerous New Zealanders have found themselves in deep trouble in Pattaya lately.

The city was home to several New Zealand expatriates including former loan shark Timothy Ward. In April 2012, Ward was arrested for an allegedly stabbing a Canadian in Pattaya.

Ward, known as "Sharky", was later released and has since regaled his 75,000 Facebook followers with pictures of scantily clad young local women and reflections on life in Pattaya.

In August 2012, New Zealander Robert Hollick, 43, was stabbed three times in the neck and the back one morning before he was pronounced dead in hospital. A Swede, Andreas Ringvall, was charged with murder, but later fled Thailand.

Five months ago, a ladyboy prostitute drugged and robbed Kiwi John Griffiths. The ladyboy spiked Griffiths' drink at a local bar, the Lucifer Club, and was later arrested wearing a gold ring belonging to the New Zealander. The ladyboy later admitted drugging Griffiths with alprazolam, a fast-acting psychoactive drug meant not to be taken with alcohol.

56-year-old Westport man Charles Edmund Jones was stabbed to death in his Pattaya hotel room in August 2011. Syrian man Mohammad Chanar Aryad was imprisoned for Jones' murder last year.

- Herald on Sunday

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