Illegal bookies expect to make a killiing for World Cup final
Illegal bookmakers at local gambling hotspots expect more business as World Cup final looms
After the final whistle in the France versus Argentina match on June 30, a line of people went to "settle" with a coffee shop bookie.
The 4-3 score in favour of France saw the bookie handing out a few one hundred dollar bills to one punter.
But he made a killing when others reluctantly passed their money to him, adding to the thick wad of $50 notes he flashed at the crowded eatery in Geylang Lorong 15.
As the World Cup enters its final stretch, bookies at gambling hot spots in Geylang, Hougang and Bukit Batok expect more business as more may want to place a wager before it ends.
Gamblers flock to illegal bookies because they can offer credit, more betting options and better pay-out rates.
The illegal operators are also quick to adapt to changes, using smartphone apps or well-designed websites to facilitate bets. Transactions are made via WeChat and Alipay, allowing customers to immediately transfer money.
The Straits Times learnt that one has to go through an agent, or middleman, to open an illegal betting account. When this reporter asked about starting a betting account, he was told by a bookie to place a $3,000 deposit. Regulars are usually not charged a deposit.
While some think placing bets with bookies is a harmless activity, it is illegal and may lead to deep debt.
An industry observer, who declined to be named, said: "Illegal gambling is big business."
On July 2, 31 men were arrested and $1.25 million in cash seized in a police operation here against illegal betting on the World Cup.
During the 2014 World Cup, an Interpol-coordinated sting across Asia resulted in 1,400 arrests and about US$12 million (S$16 million) seized from illegal syndicates.
More than 1,000 raids were conducted on gambling dens - many controlled by organised crime groups - which were estimated to have dealt with US$2.2 billion in bets via illegal football websites.
Transparency International and Asian Racing Federation say Asia accounts for 80 per cent of the estimated US$500 billion in illegal betting volumes globally.
While illegal football gambling figures are unavailable here, the Hong Kong Jockey Club told ST it estimated that "at least HK $30 billion (S$5 billion) will be bet illegally on the 2018 World Cup" in Hong Kong.
When contacted, legal operator Singapore Pools said the average bet size for this World Cup is similar to the 2014 edition.
Its spokesman said: "We see it as our duty to advocate and champion a responsible play environment with safeguards in place for the benefit of our customers."
Safeguards include mandating that customers must be at least 21 years old before qualifying for an account, setting daily limits on bets and disallowing betting on credit.
If you have a gambling problem, you can call the National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1800-6668-668
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