Interpol says a crackdown on what it called gambling dens and gambling websites during the Euro 2016 soccer tournament led to more than 4,100 people being arrested and US$13.6 million in cash being seized, reported the Associated Press. The tournament took place in France from June 10 to July 10.
Nearly 4,000 raids were carried out in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, France, Greece and Italy as part of Operation SOGA VI. The Interpol-coordinated group launched in 2007 a crackdown on unlicensed soccer betting, called Operation Soga (Soccer Gambling).
A second operation – also coinciding with Euro 2016 – targeted alleged illicit betting websites and call centre operations in Cambodia, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Interpol estimates that during the Euro 2016 nearly GBP500 million (US$654 million) in bets was handled by what it calls “illegal gambling dens”, reported the Guardian newspaper.
Unlicensed betting on soccer matches usually surges in Asia during an international tournament. The rewards of increased betting volume are attractive to organisers, even though the risk of arrest is typically heightened.
A number of investment analysts have suggested there is potential for a negative correlation between the calendar for major international soccer events – mainly the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro championships, which generally each last for around a month – and Macau casino gross gaming revenue (GGR).
They have argued that this is because a portion of the Macau casino clientele – mostly drawn from mainland China – like to put some of their gambling budget into soccer betting rather than spending it on Macau’s tables and slot machines.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said in a note on July 11: “We think the Euro Cup [sic] could have propelled some VIP patrons to gamble less in Macau. This could also have affected premium mass. But this is temporary, in our view.”
Casino GGR in Macau declined by 8.5 percent year-on-year in June, to MOP15.88 billion (US$1.99 billion). It was the lowest monthly tally for Macau casino GGR since September 2010, according to official data.
Brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd however suggested in a note on July 1 that Euro 2016 did not have a material impact on June GGR in Macau.
“Keep in mind that the only segments of the market that might have to make a conscious choice between casino gaming and sports betting are the very lowest tiers of mass. However, grind mass appears to remain the strongest segment of the market these days, including in June, and this segment continues to grow nicely on a year-on-year basis,” said the brokerage.
It added: “Again, we would attribute the weakness in June primarily to soft VIP demand, which is likely not being impacted by Euro 2016.”
On Monday, the Singapore Police Force announced it had arrested 39 suspects believed to be involved in unlicensed gambling activities, as part of SOGA VI.
Several enforcement agencies in the region have said that this year’s operation was the “most significant” in recent years.
“The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years. The SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organised networks behind this and other types of crime,” said chief superintendent Chan Lok Wing, head of Hong Kong’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, quoted by Reuters news agency.
The six SOGA operations have resulted in more than 12,500 arrests, the seizure of GBP40 million in cash and the closure of more than 3,400 operations that handled almost GBP4.85 billion-worth of bets, Interpol said, according to the Guardian.
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