A joint operation by Chinese authorities has taken down an illegal cross-border online sports and race betting ring following a year-long investigation. On the weekend, officers from Hong Kong’s organized crime and narcotics bureaus raided 16 locations across the special administrative region, arresting 33 individuals and seizing 20 computers. According to the Hong Kong Standard, the police also seized HKD 170m (US$21.9m) in cash and betting slips worth HKD 1.2b ($154.7m), although the South China Morning Post inserted some decimal points into those figures, claiming the cash haul was HKD 1.7m ($219k) and the betting slips totaled HKD 120m ($15.5m).
At the same time, authorities in Shenzhen arrested 23 more individuals, including the alleged ringleader, a Hong Kong resident. Again, depending on whose account you choose to believe, Shenzhen authorities seized betting slips totaling either RMB 9b ($1.47b) or RMB 900m ($147m). While the Hong Kong authorities claim to have “smashed the syndicate,” the investigation is ongoing and police said more arrests are likely. Hong Kong’s Gambling Ordinance allows for sentences of up to seven years in jail and HKD 5m fines for bookmakers, while punters face nine months in stripes and HKD 30k fines for merely placing wagers with a bookmaker.
The raids were timed to coincide with the kickoff of the 2013 Confederations Cup football competition. Police stated that the betting ring was believed to have been in operation for around two years, and Hong Kong Organized Crime and Triad Bureau chief inspector Ng Wai-hon said the investigation had taken longer than usual due to the gang’s methodology. The betting ring had set up a password-protected website that “regularly” changed its URL and the investigation was further hampered by the fact that the website’s servers were based in South America.
Over in Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Police have busted an illegal bookie taking wagers on boat and motorcycle races. Japan actually permits legal wagering on those sports, as well as horseracing and human-powered cycling races. TV Asahi reported that the illegal operation was run out of a multi-tenant building in Shinagawa Ward and had earned ¥40m ($419k) over the past two years. Four gamblers were swept up in the raid along with the ringleader, a 77-year-old Korean national named Jung Byung-in. The elderly Mr. Jung earned points for honesty by copping to the fact that “there is no question that gambling took place.”