With the 2018 FIFA World Cup now just six weeks away, police forces across Asia are gearing up for their crackdowns on the expected surge in illegal sports betting.
Thailand’s Royal Thai Police (RTP) recently announced plans to launch an operation center dedicated to combatting illegal online football wagering on World Cup action, which gets underway on June 14. The center, which will connect the RTP head office with regional offices, officially began its work on Tuesday and may become a permanent fixture.
The RTP’s new anti-betting brigade includes staff from the Central Investigation Bureau, the Immigration Bureau and the Anti-Money Laundering Office. The force will target sites whether their servers are based in Thailand or abroad.
Concerned citizens are being urged to fink on suspected illegal betting activity – in Thailand, all gambling except the lottery is illegal – and deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan suggested that the owners of Facebook accounts that promote betting activity could face charges of violating both the Gambling Act and the Computer-related Crime Act.
Over in Hong Kong, the local police have already launched their latest Operation Crowbeak, which aims to disrupt illegal online betting while also flooding bars and restaurants with undercover officers on the lookout for wagering not being conducted with the Hong Kong Jockey Club local betting monopoly.
The 2016 edition of Crowbeak, which targeted Euro 2016 bettors, resulted in the confiscation of betting records that quadrupled the volume of those intercepted during the Euro 2012 event. The 2014 edition resulted in the arrests of 176 illegal World Cup bookies.
In 2016, the HK police found that betting operators were getting technically more savvy, recording betting info via text message rather than burden themselves with a lot of incriminating betting slips, forcing the cops to become more creative in their sleuthing.
China and Thailand were among the 10 nations involved in the SOGA and Aces anti-betting campaigns organized by global crime-fighters Interpol, which resulted in over 4,100 gambling arrests during the Euro 2016 event. Interpol has yet to reveal the names of its global partners for the 2018 FIFA tourney, but one suspects even more partner nations are itching to help hoist the global ban-hammer this time around.