19 April 2019
Illegal bookmakers see a surge in sports betting during the World Cup. Photo: AFP
Illegal bookmakers see a surge in sports betting during the World Cup. Photo: AFP

Police step up fight on illegal sports betting during World Cup

Let’s call him Tommy. Illegal sports betting almost destroyed his family. His wife attempted to commit suicide along with their two children in 2012 after she discovered that he had accumulated HK$2 million in debts on illegal football bets.

After years of effort, the incorrigible gambler was able to beat his addiction of 20 years and pay off his debts after a restructuring.

With the 2018 World Cup set to kick off this Thursday, Tommy is warning football fans not to fall into the bottomless pit of illegal sports betting as he did many years ago.

“It’s going to destroy your family, and cost the trust of your family,” he said.

In fact, Tommy has promised himself not to watch this year’s World Cup. He hopes to set himself as an example for those who are still struggling with their gambling addiction.

Local police are coordinating with mainland and Macau authorities as well as the Interpol to fight illegal gambling, which usually surges during the month-long football competition.

The crackdown on illegal betting has become more difficult after the syndicates behind the activities have moved their operations overseas, Senior Superintendent Louis Chan Hon-ming of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said.

Many illegal bookmakers are now using online payment technology and social media to take bets, making it harder for police to go after them, Chan added.

During the last World Cup in 2014, police arrested 155 people for illegal betting and seized at HK$736 million in bets.

During the last UEFA European Championship in 2016, 108 people were arrested and HK$646 million in bets were confiscated.

Anti-gambling organizations are also helping in the campaign to fight illegal betting.

The Ping Wo Fund will hold a carnival and other events to urge the public to stay away from sports gambling.

The Sunshine Lutheran Centre of the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service runs an assistance center for those with gambling problems as well as their families and friends. They may call the hotline 1834633 or send a message through WhatsApp or WeChat at 6606 3933.

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