Casinos in Singapore reopened their gaming floors in April following extensive COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the illegal gambling element is still alive and well, with police arresting 29 people for their involvement in an underground gaming operation.
This past Sunday, police raided several locations simultaneously in the country. They were responding to a tip that an illegal gambling ring was providing remote gambling activity out of several properties.
The tip was solid, with police taking 24 men and women into custody during the raids. Prosecutors continue grilling the individuals to determine the extent of the operations.
Illegal Gambling Runs Rampant
Although police initially arrested two dozen people, ranging in age from 32 to 74, they ultimately only held on to two of them. Two men allegedly ran the organization, and prosecutors want them to remain in jail while they conduct their investigation.
During the raids, which covered six different locations, police confiscated almost SGD730,000 (US$522,600) in cash and electronic equipment. In addition, they ordered banks to freeze the accounts of the suspected ringleaders.
Facilitating remote gambling activity in Singapore carries stiff penalties. Monetary fines range from SGD20,000 to 200,000 (US$14,368 to $143,660). In addition, there is the possibility that they spend up to five years in jail. The court can issue both a fine and jail time if the crime warrants it.
Bettors face punishments, as well. For example, anyone who places a bet with a bookmaker can receive a fine of up to SGD5,000 (US$3,592) and as much as six months in jail.
The raids occurred as Singapore police were busy busting another illegal gambling operation. On Monday, they announced that they were investigating six men who allegedly operated illegal bookmaking activity. In that arrest, police seized as evidence electronic equipment and around SGD2,200 (US$1,580).
This past May, following a series of operations in Bedok and Changi, police arrested 21 people between 29-76 for illegal gaming and vice activities. In a press release, the police stated that the arrests were conducted by Bedok Neighborhood Police Center.
Officers discovered nine men aged between 52-75 who were allegedly bookmakers, placing bets for others and then collecting the money. Police confiscated three mobile phones and more than SG$7,500 (US$5,389) in cash.
In a separate raid at the same time, police arrested eight men between 55-76 and a 68-year-old woman. Again, they allegedly ran illegal gambling activities, but on a much smaller scale.
Out in the Open
On some occasions, illegal sports betting doesn’t take place only behind closed doors in Singapore. This past April, The Straits Times reported on overt sports betting that flagrantly skirts the laws without concern.
Particularly in coffee shops, parking lots and more, bettors will sit around to wager on the ponies at races taking place in Hong Kong or the Singapore Turf Club. The media outlet investigated first-hand, determining that, in some instances, there were so many people participating that trying to walk through a crowd of them was like walking through an obstacle course.
As a result, between 2019 and 2021, police swept through the areas more than 1,000 times. However, as soon as they left, the groups descended once more on their favorite spots as soon as the next race was on the board.
Participation rose significantly during COVID-19, with people looking for ways to pass the time. Legal Singapore Pools locations shut down, as well, during the pandemic, but began reopening in July of last year.
Now, having grown accustomed to the camaraderie and the social interaction of the pop-up sportsbooks, bettors like their routines. Singapore Pools is trying to grow its operations to make them more appealing, but it will have to do more to convince bettors to change their ways.
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