Authorities across Asia are stepping up their efforts to crack down on illegal sports betting, which is expected to see a surge in revenue as the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil on Thursday.
According to The International Centre for Sport Security, Asian criminal gangs may be laundering as much as $140 billion annually through illegal sports betting, mainly on football. In a recent report in conjunction with the Sorbonne University in Paris, wagers of between $275 billion and $685 billion are made each year, with more than 80 percent of those illegal.
Legal betting only provides about $5.5 billion in tax revenues, it said, and Asia makes up more than half of the illegal market.
Hong Kong authorities recently set up a special task force to target illegal sports betting and said “strenuous” action would be taken against illegal activities. Hong Kong is cooperating with authorities in neighbouring Macau and Mainland China.
“Since their illicit business often involves offshore operations, we have already secured the co-operation of the law enforcement agencies of a number of neighbouring jurisdictions,” Organised Crime & Triad Bureau Chief Superintendent Choy Kin-cheung said.
Anyone involved in illegal bookmaking may face fines of $5 million and up to seven years in jail.
Meanwhile, in Thailand police have also moved to shut down illegal gambling dens. A recent University of Thai Chamber of Commerce study estimated that Thais would spend $2.4 billion during the World Cup, with just over half of that amount likely to go on illegal gambling activities.