Prison officers seize HK$1.3 million in betting slips as World Cup anti-gambling operations stepped up in Hong Kong jails
Correctional Services Department says 45 inmates caught placing bets or possessing gambling materials as 3,000 searches carried out this year
Hong Kong prison officers seized about HK$1.3 million (US$167,670) in betting records during 3,000 searches conducted in the first five months of the year as they stepped up anti-gambling operations ahead of the soccer World Cup.
The Correctional Services Department said on Monday that 45 inmates were caught placing bets or possessing gambling tools such as betting slips and playing cards. They mainly used cigarettes as betting chips, along with goods bought in the prison shop, daily necessities and waste items such as paper, cloth and wood.
With the 2018 World Cup kicking off on Thursday, the department has been strengthening its anti-gambling operations with more searches and night raids in correctional facilities from the beginning of this year.
The department said inmates who engaged in illicit betting would face disciplinary penalties, including the loss of privileges such as the right to borrow books, remission or deduction of salary, and separate confinement.
Superintendent Wat Pak-hang said the department believed inmates got their information on matches from the radio or visitors.
“Every inmate can get information through their family members or the radios they bought,” Wat said.
In the same period ahead of the 2014 World Cup, gambling activities worth around HK$1 million were found during search operations and 46 inmates caught.
Despite an increase in the amount of gambling money uncovered this year, Senior Superintendent Anthony Pang said he did not see a significant rising trend in betting.
Wat added that the number of inspections conducted this year had risen 50 per cent compared with the same period before the last World Cup.
Apart from special searches, which included night raids, the department also conducted daily searches on inmates and inspected canteens and work stations.
“During our inspections, we use metal detectors, but sometimes the contraband is not made of metal. So we need to conduct more detailed inspections,” Wat said.
Home-made alcohol was among the contraband seized on other occasions. Officials said inmates would mix oranges, rice and water and let the concoction ferment to produce liquor.
The department introduced a new flammable liquid detector in jails to upgrade security earlier this year. The liquid search system will be implemented in facilities for visitor and parcel searches.
“We introduced the detector [into correctional facilities] because we have taken notice of the international situation and security needs,” Wat said.