In a pre-emptive strike against World Cup bettors, Singapore authorities broke up an online sports betting operation over the weekend. Singapore Police carried out raids on Sunday and Monday that resulted in the arrests of 18 suspects and the seizure of multiple computers, mobile phones and S$1.4m (US $1.1m) in cash. Interestingly, while police have declined to identify the suspects’ nationalities, they did confirm that just two of the arrested individuals were men, proving that online gambling is indeed an equal opportunity endeavor.
Whatever their gender, the suspects are looking at up to five years in prison and fines of up to S$200k if convicted. The police also seized records of betting activity, which could result in future arrests of individual bettors, who face up to six months in prison and fines of S$5k. Deputy assistant commissioner of police Kenny Tan warned both illegal betting operators and customers to “think twice” before assuming they can “hide behind the anonymity of the internet to commit criminal offences.”
The police issued a statement saying the ring was believed to have handled S$8m in football wagers in just the two weeks immediately preceding the arrests. Singapore Pools runs the city-state’s only authorized sports betting operation but Singaporeans’ appetite for a broader spectrum of wagering options often leads them to seek out other online operators.
The World Cup isn’t the only sporting activity capturing the attention of bettors, nor of the authorities. Late last month, Hong Kong police broke up an online and telephone horseracing bet operation, arresting 11 men and two women operating out of an industrial building in Tuen Mun. Officers from an anti-triad unit said the arrested individuals are suspected of having triad links. The operation is believed to have handled up to HKD100m ($142k) in wagers for each meeting of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s last racing season, handling about HKD6.3b in total since launching in September. By comparison, the HKJC handles wagers worth about HKD1.1b per meeting.