Asian police forces are ramping up their attacks on unauthorized betting operators as the 2018 FIFA World Cup draws to a close.
Authorities in China’s Guangdong province announced Wednesday that they’d arrested 540 individuals involved in a massive online football betting operation that reportedly handled a spectacular RMB10b (US$1.5b) worth of wagers from over 330k customers, who primarily used Bitcoin as gambling currency.
According to the state-run Xinhua media outlet, police took notice of the operation in May, and their subsequent investigation revealed that the operation had been active for eight months. Police identified six key individuals among those arrested who oversaw more than 20 regional operations in southwest, central and southern China.
In addition to the arrests, police seized RMB5m in assets and another RMB10m worth of virtual currency. The gang operated some 70 mobile apps and websites, which were promoted via 250 online chat groups, which have since been shut down.
Earlier this week, Chinese media reported that the WeChat social networking platform had closed 50k accounts and deleted 8k group chats due to their connection to illegal World Cup betting activity. WeChat’s owner Tencent issued a statement urging users to “watch the World Cup rationally … and keep away from gambling.”
In Malaysia, police took down an online gambling syndicate that earned RM10m (US$2.5m) in profits from around 6,800 customers. The group, which reportedly launched its operations from a luxury condo in May, processed wagers via websites based in Hong Kong and the Philippines while promoting its activity via social media.
Malaysian police have now nabbed some 589 unauthorized bookmakers since its World Cup betting crackdown began last month. If convicted, those unlucky individuals face financial penalties and up to five years in prison.
In Thailand, police patience is wearing thin with some so-called ‘net pretties’ who promote betting activity to their social media followers. On Tuesday, The Nation reported that Bangkok police had issued a second round of summonses for four ‘pretties’ who declined to show up at police headquarters after receiving their first invitation. Failure to show this time will result in arrest warrants being issued.
Among those being summoned is ex-porn star Kesarin Chaichalermpol aka Nong Nat, who stands accused of promoting unauthorized football betting websites to her social media audience. She was scheduled to report on July 4, but there’s been no further report as to whether or not she showed.