Malaysia Police Arrest 166 Gamblers as World Cup Betting Craze Sweeps the Country

Police in the Malaysian state of Selangor have arrested 166 people for allegedly placing bets on World Cup matches, local news outlets reported Tuesday. Betting on football is illegal in the Southeast Asian country and those engaging in the activity could face legal action, if caught.

Datuk Pahlawan Mazlan Mansor, Chief of the Selangor police department, told local media that they conducted 146 raids within 16 police districts across the state in the period between June 15 to July 8 and detained 166 people. The arrested individuals were aged from their early 20s to 50s; 161 of them were nationals and five were foreigners, the police chief revealed. They were all suspected to have placed bets on World Cup matches with illegal online betting syndicates.

Selangor police further informed that during a particular raid that took place on June 30 in Bandar Damai Perdana, Kajang, they seized equipment for the provision of illegal betting services, including computers, laptops, and mobile phones, and arrested 11 people for conducting betting activities in breach of the country’s gambling law, the Betting Act 1953.

The 146 raids across the state resulted in the seizure of MYR27,900 (approximately $6,930). However, police officers said they believed syndicates have netted more than RM1.2 million (nearly $300,000) in illegal bets placed by Malaysians. It was also understood that illegal betting services were mostly provided via the Internet.

World Cup Betting Madness

Police officers said Tuesday, ahead of the France vs Belgium semi-final, that they would be stepping up their efforts to crack down on illegal gambling as the major football tournament, currently taking place in Russia, is progressing into its final stages.

France beat Belgium last night to reach their first World Cup final since 2006. They will play Croatia or England on Sunday, July 15. Chief Mazlan said that they expect betting activity to increase in the final days of the World Cup and urged Malaysia residents to deter from engaging in illegal betting activities. The police officer further pointed out that, based on their findings, they have reasons to believe that the betting syndicates luring bettors nationwide are managed by organized crime.

Football has a massive following in Southeast Asia and in Malaysia, in particular. According to data from the country, the amount of MYR120.76 million (approximately $3 million) was estimated to have been wagered during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Police conducted 828 raids across the country during that year’s edition of the quadrennial football championship.

It is yet to be seen how much would be wagered this year, but given the fact that other countries in the region have revealed that illegal betting activity has been far more intense during the 2018 World Cup, the same trend is likely to be recorded in Malaysia, as well.

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