Just as Euro 2012 requires players to turn things up a notch, football-mad Asian bettors are forcing police across the region to step up their anti-gambling game. In Bangkok, the Department of Special Investigation announced the formation of a special taskforce to combat online gambling activities for the duration of the footie fest. The Pattaya Mail claims the police intend to monitor traffic flowing in and out of known online betting sites, and any “unusual or suspicious” activities will be forwarded to the Technology Crime Suppression Division for further action. Police observation of ‘dormitories’ and entertainment venues broadcasting Euro 2012 matches have already resulted in the arrests of five bookmakers and around 50 punters.
In Malaysia, police are working closely with the Communication and Multimedia Division, as well as Interpol, to police the interwebz. Bernama reported that these investigations have already led to the arrest of eight men in Penang believed to be involved in two online gambling ‘syndicates’, handling individual wagers as high as RM200k ($63k). The local county mountie noted that his officers had conducted 270 such raids during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, so this party is only getting started.
But so far, chief bragging rights belongs to Vietnam, where a top exec in the international affairs department of the Hanoi-based Bong Da (Football) Newspaper has been indicted for leading an illegal online betting operation. VietnamNet reported that Do Huy Nam was arrested along with another member of the outfit, and their confessions led to the arrest of 11 more men as well as the seizure of laptops, mobile phones and cash. The betting ring had reportedly been a going concern since 2011.
Let’s end on an ‘up’ note. The Indonesian province of Aceh, the sole area of the largely Muslim country to operate under the strict guidelines of Sharia law, has decided it will no longer publicly cane citizens convicted of gambling offenses. (It also plans to stop stoning adulterers to death, so win-win for most of us.) The reason for this leniency? The governing Aceh Party says the punishments (a) have proven ineffective in deterring such aberrant behavior, and (b) they weren’t being applied to corrupt officials. When even the Sharia crowd admits that prohibition doesn’t work, it offers hope that evangelical anti-gambling types in the west will one day see the light.