Hong Kong police are launching a month-long operation against illegal soccer betting in the run-up to the World Cup.
Working in conjunction with Interpol in nine other countries, local police are coordinating efforts to eliminate the multimillion-dollar problem.
Police in the city also say they are being thwarted in attempts to stamp out illegal soccer betting as most syndicates operate online, on the mainland and offshore.
Superintendent Dan Ng Wai-hon, from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said yesterday that criminals had moved to the mainland and regions such as South America and Taiwan since local authorities got tougher in raiding criminal gangs.
The value of soccer betting receipts seized by police in recent years peaked in 2010, when HK$386 million was confiscated. It reached HK$225 million last year, according to police figures.
Ng said the force was mobilising most of its criminal investigation officers in a month-long operation against illegal soccer betting as the World Cup starts next Thursday.
Southeast Asia is known as a region where syndicates are basing their illegal online businesses, he said. "Some countries in Southeast Asia have different laws or prosecution procedures than Hong Kong," he said. "Some [places] may instead treat pickpocketing as a priority."
Hong Kong - together with mainland China, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - are all members of the Interpol Asia-Pacific Expert Group on Organised Crime, he said. The group met in Indonesia in May to discuss coordinated efforts against illegal bookmaking during the World Cup.
However, not every member has been active in combating illegal gambling, said Ng. The Philippines, for example, has yet to take any firm action against illegal bookmaking.
Matthew Chan Kai-chak, a senior detective inspector with the bureau, said there was no evidence to show that any single triad gang dominated the city's illegal bookmaking market, or whether local triads were involved with other overseas gangs.
Police have appealed to the public not to gamble through illegal channels.