POLICE smashed a soccer bookmaking syndicate and arrested 24 people, seizing betting slips worth $6 million on Sunday night.
Police attached to the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau joined a special duty unit from Kowloon West Headquarters to stage the series of raids dubbed Crow Beak.
Swoops on 22 premises resulted in the arrests of 22 men and two women, aged between 21 and 65, for bookmaking activities. Those arrested were later released on bail ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
Police allege the syndicate has been active since the European football competitions, including the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A and the Spanish league, kicked-off last week.
The latest crackdown follows a similar Pengeluaran HK operation on May 24 when police raided 87 venues and visited 804 entertainment premises, mostly pubs, across the territory, seizing betting slips worth $4.15 million and $146,000 in cash.
Meanwhile police said a 33-year-old man surnamed Lo, arrested at his Sham Shui Po flat in another operation, was believed to be the mastermind of a gambling syndicate. As well as betting slips, calculators and television sets were found at his apartment.
Under the Gambling Ordinance, the maximum penalty for those engaged in illegal bookmaking is a $5 million fine and seven years’ jail.
The SAR government insists it has kept a “neutral stance” on the legalisation of soccer gambling.
The Home Affairs Bureau began a public consultation on gambling on June 23, revealing that the annual turnover of illegal football betting, run by offshore bookmakers and Internet sites was estimated at $20 billion.
Using the formula of a betting tax rate of 14 per cent applied to horse racing, the projected revenue would be about $2.8 billion annually in tax revenue.
The consultation ends next month.