Book­ies ex­pect­ing fi­nal flut­ters

The New Paper - - NEWS - ZAIHAN MO­HAMED YU­SOF

Il­le­gal book­mak­ers at lo­cal gam­bling hotspots ex­pect more busi­ness as World Cup fi­nal looms

After the fi­nal whis­tle in the France ver­sus Ar­gentina match on June 30, a line of peo­ple went to “set­tle” with a cof­fee shop bookie.

The 4-3 score in favour of France saw the bookie hand­ing out a few one hun­dred dol­lar bills to one punter.

But he made a killing when oth­ers re­luc­tantly passed their money to him, adding to the thick wad of $50 notes he flashed at the crowded eatery in Gey­lang Lorong 15.

As the World Cup en­ters its fi­nal stretch, book­ies at gam­bling hot spots in Gey­lang, Hougang and Bukit Ba­tok ex­pect more busi­ness as more may want to place a wager be­fore it ends.

Gam­blers flock to il­le­gal book­ies be­cause they can of­fer credit, more bet­ting op­tions and bet­ter pay-out rates.

The il­le­gal op­er­a­tors are also quick to adapt to changes, us­ing smart­phone apps or well-de­signed web­sites to fa­cil­i­tate bets. Trans­ac­tions are made via WeChat and Ali­pay, al­low­ing cus­tomers to im­me­di­ately trans­fer money.

The Straits Times learnt that one has to go through an agent, or mid­dle­man, to open an il­le­gal bet­ting ac­count. When this re­porter asked about start­ing a bet­ting ac­count, he was told by a bookie to place a $3,000 de­posit. Reg­u­lars are usu­ally not charged a de­posit.

While some think plac­ing bets with book­ies is a harm­less ac­tiv­ity, it is il­le­gal and may lead to deep debt.

An in­dus­try ob­server, who de­clined to be named, said: “Il­le­gal gam­bling is big busi­ness.”

On July 2, 31 men were ar­rested and $1.25 mil­lion in cash seized in a po­lice op­er­a­tion here against il­le­gal bet­ting on the World Cup.

Dur­ing the 2014 World Cup, an In­ter­pol-co­or­di­nated sting across Asia re­sulted in 1,400 ar­rests and about US$12 mil­lion (S$16 mil­lion) seized from il­le­gal syn­di­cates.

More than 1,000 raids were con­ducted on gam­bling dens – many con­trolled by or­gan­ised crime groups – which were es­ti­mated to have dealt with US$2.2 bil­lion in bets via il­le­gal foot­ball web­sites.

Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional and Asian Rac­ing Fed­er­a­tion say Asia ac­counts for 80 per cent of the es­ti­mated US$500 bil­lion in il­le­gal bet­ting vol­umes glob­ally.

While il­le­gal foot­ball gam­bling fig­ures are un­avail­able here, the Hong Kong Jockey Club told ST it es­ti­mated that “at least HK $30 bil­lion (S$5 bil­lion) will be bet il­le­gally on the 2018 World Cup” in Hong Kong.

When con­tacted, le­gal op­er­a­tor Sin­ga­pore Pools said the av­er­age bet size for this World Cup is sim­i­lar to the 2014 edi­tion.

Its spokesman said: “We see it as our duty to ad­vo­cate and cham­pion a re­spon­si­ble play en­vi­ron­ment with safe­guards in place for the ben­e­fit of our cus­tomers.”

Safe­guards in­clude man­dat­ing that cus­tomers must be at least 21 years old be­fore qual­i­fy­ing for an ac­count, set­ting daily lim­its on bets and dis­al­low­ing bet­ting on credit.

zaihan@sph.com.sg

HELPLINE

If you have a gam­bling prob­lem, you can callthe Na­tional Prob­lem Gam­bling Helpline: 1800-6668-668

TNP PHOTO: ZAIHAN MO­HAMED YU­SOF

Book­ies will be eye­ing foot­ball fans like th­ese at il­le­gal gam­bling hotspots like Gey­lang.

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