Israeli police have broken up what is being referred to as the biggest illegal online gambling network in the country’s history. On Wednesday morning, around 200 police officers made simultaneous raids on the homes of 44 suspects, who were brought in for further questioning regarding their involvement with the Don-Bet online gambling site (not to be confused with sports handicapper Don Best). Money exchange kiosks in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Holon, Herzliya and Rishon Lezion were also raided, with the Times of Israel reporting that police confiscated cash and paperwork related to the network’s operations. Some of the Don-Bet website’s servers were located in Israel, and the home page has been replaced with a bare-bones “site upgrade” notice that optimistically requests that visitors “try again in a few minutes.”
The Don-Bet site was reportedly the subject of a year-long undercover investigation involving police, tax authorities and money laundering investigators. Police tapped the suspects’ phones and tracked how the organization moved funds around. Globes reported that the Don-Bet site purported to be a regular online gambling site, prominently displaying icons and links to credit card payment options, but instead acted as something of a credit betting operation, using agents in the field to recruit customers and handle the financial end. Haaretz claimed the site had 200 such agents across Israel servicing over 3,000 permanent clients.
Authorities estimated the site, which was in operation for five years, processed over a billion dollars in wagers over the past 30 months. YnetNews reported that the police had seized a significant amount of money via the raids and Globes quoted a police spokesman as saying “the state could make tens of millions of shekels from the seizures.” The suspects are facing charges of money laundering, gambling, criminal conspiracy and violations of the Combating Criminal Organizations Law. Online gambling in Israel is restricted to the Israel Sports Betting Board and the Mifal Hapayis state lottery.