World Cup gamblers arrested in Asia

Police in four countries arrest 5000 people for illegal betting on the World Cup.

    Despite opposition, Malaysia recenty legalised betting but new rules came too late for the World Cup [AFP]

    In addition to the cash, officers seized alleged criminal assets including cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones.

    The operation was coordinated from Interpol's headquarters in France and Louboutin praised the close cooperation of Asian police forces.

    'Sweep of small players'

    Joe Saumarez Smith, news editor of the website betasia.com, told Al Jazeera that the arrests were insignificant compared to the size of the issue.

    "Ten million dollars is really an accounting error" compared to the amounts of money changing hands.

    "It looks like this has been a sweep-up of a lot of the small players."

    The international operation dubbed SOGA III, which followed two smaller gambling raids, ran between June 11 and July 11, as millions around the world were glued to their television screens, following the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

    Sports betting remains illegal in much of Asia, unlike the most of Europe, even though it is apparently popular with the region's sports fans.

    Smith says some of the people involved with sports betting are "shady characters" but others are "genuine book makers" who are forced under-ground because gambling is illegal.

    As part of the operation, police raided a casino in Macau, a former Portugese colony in the south of China, which recently over-took Las Vegas to become the world's largest gambling market.

    Malaysia legalised sports betting last month, angering conservative groups, but the new licenses were not ready in time for the World Cup and a police task force was assigned to lead a crackdown on gamblers in the country. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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