1st Edition

Gambling, the State and Society in Thailand, c.1800-1945

ISBN 9781138956360
Published September 4, 2015 by Routledge
246 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

USD $59.95

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Book Description

During the nineteenth century there was a huge increase in the level and types of gambling in Thailand. Taxes on gambling became a major source of state revenue, with the government establishing state-run lotteries and casinos in the first half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, over the same period, a strong anti-gambling discourse emerged within the Thai elite, which sought to regulate gambling through a series of increasingly restrictive and punitive laws. By the mid-twentieth century, most forms of gambling had been made illegal, a situation that persists until today. This historical study, based on a wide variety of Thai- and English-language archival sources including government reports, legal cases and newspapers, places the criminalization of gambling in Thailand in the broader context of the country’s socio-economic transformation and the modernization of the Thai state. Particular attention is paid to how state institutions, such as the police and judiciary, and different sections of Thai society shaped and subverted the law to advance their own interests. Finally, the book compares the Thai government’s policies on gambling with those on opium use and prostitution, placing the latter in the context of an international clampdown on vice in the early twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Gambling and Socio-Economic Change in Nineteenth-Century Siam 2. Games, Dens and Players: Gambling in Nineteenth-Century Thai Society 3. Gambling Revenue and the Creation of the Modern Thai Nation-State 4. The Thai Elite, Anti-Gambling and Lawmaking 5. The Police and Enforcement 6. The Judiciary, Punishment and the Prison 7. The Press and the Bangkok Middle Class 8. Buddhism, the Sangha and the General Public 9. Siamese Vice: The Criminalisation of Gambling in Comparative Perspective 10. Conclusion

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James A. Warren is a lecturer in the Social Science Division of Mahidol University International College, Thailand.


"The role of gambling in Southeast Asian history has attracted far less scholarly attention than its sister vices – opium and prostitution – and James Warren’s book, Gambling, the State and Society in Thailand, is a big step towards addressing this gap. Broad in scope and detailed in analysis, the book pries open the complex relationships between gambling and the modernisation of Thailand in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."
Kah-Wee Lee, TRaNS: Trans -Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia, May 2015