Illegal football gambling losses lead to crime spree

Police warnings and FIFA monitoring appeared to have had little impact on massive illegal gambling on the World Cup in Asia. Isloated reports of arrests included about 100 caught in a raid an underground bookmakers in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi. Gambling records and television sets were also seized and the case was handed to police for further investigation, Citizens-Police Liaison Committee chief Sharfuddin Memon told AFP.

In Thailand, one in five Thais who reportedly placed bets with illegal bookies on World Cup matches, were unable to pay what they owed, according to a survey by KResearch which estimated the punters' total debt at 6 billion baht (about $25 million). The company interviewed 3,739 gamblers and found that 21.4 per cent were already in debt to a bookie who had accepted their bet without an upfront payment. Most were students under 25. The value of their losses varied from 200 baht to several hundred thousand. Broke gamblers reported that they had asked for extensions, offered to pay in instalments, borrowed money from friends or pawned assets. One in 10 reported harassment by loan sharks. In its report, KResearch predicted that crime would rise in the coming weeks as gamblers become more desperate. According to the firm, the number of asset-related crimes in Thailand in 2002, when the last World Cup was held, was 4.6 per cent higher than the year before.

The event was also blamed for crime in neighbouring Cambodia. Police in Phnom Penh locked up a destitute football fan for two days for lodging a false police report saying his motorbike had been stolen. In fact, he had lost it in a bet on a World Cup match. Sok Pagna, 19, had borrowed US$100 from a friend ahead of the France-Portugal match and turned over his motorbike as collateral, said police chief Kuy Phalla. He put the money on Portugal, which lost 1-0. With no cash to recover his bike, Sok told his mother it had been stolen. She took him to file a report. He later confessed to the officers and was detained for 48 hours.

See also: Asian police mostly clamping down on gambling (30 May)