|Hong Kong police have arrested four bookmakers and seized slips totaling 20 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.6 million) in illegal bets on World Cup soccer, officers said Saturday. |
They also seized 11 mobile phones and two computers in raids Friday evening, part of a strengthened crackdown on World Cup gambling, said spokeswoman Suzanne Lee.
Although gambling is popular among Hong Kong Chinese, for decades the only legal betting in the territory has been on lotteries and horse races.
On Friday, opening day of the 32-nation tournament, new laws took effect to ban placing bets by telephone or the Internet with overseas bookmakers.
'We should be seeing fewer illegal betting activities in the following few days, but if they persist, police will take further action,' Hong Kong's police commissioner, Tsang Yam-pui, told reporters Saturday.
Lawyer Jerry Chung said, though, 'It's hard to stop betting by those who think soccer gambling is decent, even with strict laws and punishments.'
Despite warnings over the years, police said that during the last World Cup in 1998, they arrested 49 people for illegal gambling and seized 57.9 million Hong dollars ($7.42 million) in wagered cash.
Many people interviewed by The Associated Press Saturday said their friends are still placing bets ranging from 100 to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($13 to $640) on the World Cup, by telephone and the Internet.
'Soccer gambling is so attractive,' said 27-year-old engineer Alan Tang. 'The only way to curb the illegal gambling trend is to legalize soccer betting here.'