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Bangkok (VNA) – Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has instructed police to seriously crack down on football gambling and debt-collecting violence ahead, during and after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will begin in Russia on June 14.

According to deputy national police chief Pol General Chalermkiat Srivorakan, the police have launched a big campaign to ensure social order during the tournament.

He said about 1,000 websites linked to football betting will be shut down and around 1,000 “Net Idol” celebrities in Thai social media, who are based across the country and allegedly appear in football-gambling advertisements, will be investigated.

If found guilty, they would be charged under Article 12 of the Gambling Act, which says that anyone arranges for or promotes others to gamble shall be punished with a one-year jail term and/or a 1,000 baht (31.17 USD) fine, he added.

Chalermkiat said police would also try to prevent loan sharks from using unlawful tactics against borrowers who lose money gambling on World Cup matches.

Though illegal, football gambling is big business in Thailand.

A survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce forecast 59 billion baht (1.84 billion USD) in World Cup betting in Thailand this year.

Law enforcement agencies in Thailand are gearing up to fight illegal gambling operators ahead of the World Cup. In Bangkok, police said they have arrested 763 people in 681 cases of illegal soccer gambling since May 1.

 During the 2014 tournament, police arrested more than 5,000 people in connection with football gambling rings.-VNA