BANGKOK: Ever since the Government Lottery Office revealed its idea earlier this week to legalise football gambling, the issue has become a topic of hot discussion among young fans of foreign football leagues.
And three close friends Jack, Jeab and Noi-nah are no exception. Like many youngsters in this country, they worship English football stars.
They are among the many teenagers who are very excited by the notion of legal betting for not only are they big fans of the game, they don't mind a little underground betting whenever the chance comes up.
The two young men, Jack, 22, and Jeab, 20, and the young lady Noi-na, 18, had a serious discussion on the topic of betting after they'd heard the hot debate in the media.
Jack: Why they are slagging off the government is beyond me. This is the prime minister's most brilliant move by a mile. It shows he understands kids. I can't wait to vote for him in the next election.
Jeab: You said it, mate. What I like the most is that I no longer have to hide from my parents. It's going to be legal, and they can't scold me for doing something that's lawful.
And if they still bitch about it, I'll stand up and tell them: Hey, my money is at least going to the fund for poor kids' education, so please shut up.
Noi-nah: But if you lose all your money, your parents are still entitled to kick your backside.
Jack: We follow all the games and collect the stats, not to mention updated tips from the Net. Why worry? We'll win and win.
Jeab: Yes, I heard from the TV the other day that the government wants young people to think for themselves. What better way than making us think with some money at stake?
Noi-nah: You arrogant morons. More gambling will only increase social troubles. I don't think legalisation will make underground betting disappear. Our friends under 18 will still have to do it the old way.
Jack: May I borrow the prime minister's words: You don't get the whole picture. We have a win-win situation here. If kids under 18 lose all their parents' savings to the underground bookies, they will still have education funds that came out of the money from older gamblers. All they need to do is write some heart-breaking essays.
Jeab: So if we win, we have helped our parents in finding extra pocket-money. If we lose, we then support the needy parents for their children's education. The money will flow to the right hands, always.
Noi-nah: Stop it, you guys. The government promises that once the legal system is in place, they will get rid of the illegal ones.
Jack: Don't be too naive, baby. Have you ever seen anything like that in your life? Look around you, the online lottery now co-exists with the underground lottery. Where there's demand, there's always supply, remember?
Noi-nah: The government may be smart, but it's definitely not sincere. If it wants to find funding for education, why don't they shift some unnecessary military spending to state schools?
Jack: First things first. I have never said this government is sincere. To take some people's money, make it look like your own and then give it to others to buy their hearts is one hell of a vision. And talk about planning for the future! By the time we grow up, casinos should also be legalised and Pattaya will have become Asia's Las Vegas. Today's kids can warm up for that by betting on soccer.
Noi-nah: So how can you be so sure you will have money left for your future?
Jack: Come on, Noi-nah, don't ask absurd or speculative questions! How the hell can we know that? Ask me something practical like: Who will we bet on tomorrow? That sounds much easier. I think we'll bet on Man United. How about you, Jeab?
Jeab: Nah. Liverpool for me.
Noi-nah: Okay, good luck to both of you. If you become rich, society will open its arms to welcome you. But watch out! If you end up a big loser, they will just brand you Phi Panan (gambling addict) and you'll have no place to stand.
Jeab: You're joking, right? In the worst case, I'll still be able to stay in one of the ua-arthorn (benefit) houses. And there are always the Bt30 health programme and ua-arthorn life insurance. Don't you see the big picture?
Noi-nah: No, I only see the future.