Asian police mostly clamping down on gambling

Police across Asia are cracking down on illegal gambling ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Both small and big-time players are in police sights. According to Malaysian federal police anti-vice and gambling chief Sidin Abdul Karim, Hong Kong is the region’s illegal betting centre, with bookies in Malaysia and Singapore linking their operations there. “We have had several meetings with police from Singapore and Hong Kong. The plans are set and we are ready to act,” he told Malaysian media this month. Sidin said police will use preventive detention laws against bookies, while plainclothes officers will be deployed to eavesdrop at stalls, coffeeshops and pubs to catch them.

Li Tak-nang, spokesman at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, a legal betting agency, acknowledged that illegal gambling was rife in the former British colony. “Illegal bookies not only offer really good odds but are flexible in their betting system. They even call punters to see if they want to bet on certain things. They play a very active role,” Li said. But no new bet types or special advertising will be launched by the Jockey Club for the World Cup as a countermeasure. “All we can do to provide more efficient and better services.”

In Thailand, where football betting remains illegal despite its enormous popularity, Bangkok police chief Viroj Chantharangsi warned his officers they would be punished if they failed to arrest gamblers during the World Cup. “Special units will boost the existing police work to effectively crack down on football gambling by focusing on bookies,” he said.

India is not traditionally a football-crazy country but it has the same problems when it comes to gambling and is preparing for a surge. “Punters here even bet on the monsoon, so we can expect a fairly large amount to be on the betting circuit during the event,” said Ranjit Narain, Joint Commissioner (City Crime), Delhi Police. “We will monitor the situation and take appropriate action.”

Some of Asia’s biggest betters are in China where underground rings are rife. Last year, Chinese state press reported a man was jailed for 30 months in a football gambling case involving more than $75 million. Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam has called for betting to be made legal so it can be managed, and countries that have followed this path claim success.

In South Korea, government-listed firm Sports Toto holds the only license for betting on sports events, handing over 25 percent of sales to the government. “Unlike some other Asian countries, illegal betting on soccer or World Cup games is rare here, helped by a consistent clampdown by police,” Sports Toto spokesman Hong Jin-Ho said. The company’s sales during the 2002 World Cup were $10.5 million and are expected to triple this year. Australia has also managed to control illicit sports betting by legalising it.

See also: Viet-Canadian illegal-football-bettng boss arrested (25 May)