Technology development proves boon for illegal operators ahead of World Cup

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Asian law enforcement agencies have stated that developments in technology are making illegal gambling harder to trace.

Across the continent, which accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the $500 billion global illegal market, regulatory bodies have been assessing the practice ahead of a predicted surge in illegal wagering during the 2018 World Cup.

“Gamblers place bets by making WhatsApp calls or leaving a voice note on instant messaging,” said senior inspector Raymond Chau Man-hin of Hong Kong’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.

“Some mobile messenger apps can even destroy messages, this makes our investigations difficult.”

Illegal betting is predicted to reach a peak during the World Cup this month, due to the similarity of Russian and Asian time zones.

The practice is expected to contribute heavily to Singapore’s $6.5bn annual illegal betting market, and the $79bn accrued by illegal operators in South Korea, with PAGCOR president Alfredo Lim adding “we lose millions from unlawful gambling.”

In Hong Kong, the World Cup alone is expected to deliver $95.5m to illegal bookmakers.

The rise of cryptocurrency has also made illegal transactions harder to trace, and despite the blockchain payments proving largely beneficial to the industry, its vulnerability is something operators as well as regulators are keen to address.

“There is a need to develop and execute a sustainable enforcement strategy for a lasting impact,” said Hong Kong Jockey Club security director Martin Purbrick.
In October of last year Macau police forces arrested several illegal operators utilising the popular messaging app WeChat, while the Xinhua News Agency reported in April that Chinese police had arrested more than 100 people after infiltrating an illegal online gambling ring.

During the 2014 World Cup, Interpol conducted a six-week operation across the continent, which saw sites handling $2.2bn worth of illegal bets shut down.

The international police agency is expected to perform similar investigations this year.


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