Legal soccer betting makes life tough for the bookies, say police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2004, 12:00am

Nine suspects arrested for taking illegal wagers on Euro 2004

The legalisation of soccer betting was hailed as a success by police yesterday as officers arrested nine people for illegally taking bets on the Euro 2004 soccer games.

The introduction of legal betting successfully put extra pressure on underground operations, senior officers said.

Superintendent Ng Ping-kuen, from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said: 'Our intelligence suggests that there are fewer illegal bookmaking activities since the legalisation of soccer betting.'

His comments come amid a string of reports suggesting underground syndicates are booming during Euro 2004.

Mr Ng said the trend was also reflected in their enforcement records.

Before the legalisation in August last year, the police conducted 46 successful operations and seized more than $37 million worth of cash and betting slips between November 2002 and last July.

But after soccer betting was legalised, the police had conducted just 23 successful operations and seized only about $3.9 million worth of cash and betting slips.

'We believe that some of the illegal bankers have turned to collect bets from outside Hong Kong, including some who make use of the internet. This has given us a certain degree of difficulty in the investigation and crackdown, but this does not mean we will be slack,' Mr Ng said.

He said his officers arrested nine people for illegal bookmaking offences after midnight yesterday and seized more than $30,000 cash and betting slips worth $3.24 million - the biggest operation since the legalisation of soccer betting.

The five men and four women, aged between 22 and 53, were arrested from four different residential units in Tai Tong Tsuen in Yuen Long, Chung Uk Tsuen in Tuen Mun, Mai Po Tsuen in Lok Ma Chau and Tsui Chuk Garden in Tsz Wan Shan.

Three of the nine suspects were also arrested for possessing arms without a licence. They were all released on bail late last night.

Mr Ng said there was no evidence suggesting that the people from the four addresses were linked. They were still investigating if the suspects were connected with any syndicates.

While some were alleged to have triad backgrounds, he said they believed their activities were not controlled by triads. Officers acted on intelligence in the operation, codenamed Crowbeak, and had tailed the suspects for three weeks.

Senior Inspector Ng Wai-hon said the odds the suspects provided were a few per cent higher than that offered by the Jockey Club.