The Thai Police has recently had a lot of trouble with illegal betting rings being run on Thai soil by South Korean nationals, and now they have made even more arrests in a sting that has penetrated deeply into underground online gambling rings.
Earlier this month, six South Koreans were arrested for running two separate online sports betting operations out of residential apartments in Bangkok in the Makkasan area and also in Phuket. Thai police arrested three men and confiscated seven computers, ten phones, five bankbooks and 16 “one-time-password-authentication devices for transactions with foreign banks,” reported the Bangkok Post.
Now two more South Koreans have been caught running an online gambling racket, this time from a rented condominium room in Bangkok’s Klong Toey district.
Pol Col Khachornpong Jitpakphum, chief of Thong Lor police station, told media Thursday morning than South Koreans, Lee Cheh Yang, 39 and Lee Cheh Min, 31, were arrested when police got a tip and then raided their residence which was located on the 18th floor of Nusasiri condominium in Phra Khanong sub-district this past on Wednesday night.
Police seized two computer notebooks, PC computers, two one-time-password (OTP) devices to assist online transactions, three cards containing passwords for money transactions, four mobile phones, one telephone, two internet routers, and other electronic items. The raids follow a similar busts in Bangkok and Phuket which took place last week, all of which involved South Koreans setting up Korean-language websites that catered to local sports bettors in South Korea.
The authorities still haven’t figured out if all these boiler room operations are connected and run centrally from a hub, or are individual competing cells. Media is reporting that the alleged mastermind behind some of the Phuket busts is believed to still be somewhere in Thailand, ready to set up again. Meanwhile, the police have processed the newest captures and are preparing to deport the arrested South Koreans, having already relayed the info on their crimes and the identities of the rings’ betting clientele to South Korean authorities.
South Korea does allow legal betting on racing (horse, cycling and boat) and bullfighting, while betting on major sports is limited to the Sports Toto (pari-mutuel) and Sports Proto (fixed-odds) monopolies. The problem has been that bettors complain that the payout ratios set by these monopolies are well below what’s available via internationally licensed online betting sites. So South Koreans have sought out these more cost-effective alternatives and taken their bets elsewhere.
All the suspects have been charged with illegal online gambling crimes. And local police is extending the investigation to make more arrests of members who are involved at all levels of the gambling network.
Col Khachornpong Jitpakphum reported to that media, that the two suspects allegedly confessed renting the room in May for 40,000 baht a month, and admitted they were responsible for administering a list of South Korean gamblers and taking bets. The online gambling operation had earned around 6.6 million Korean KRW, or about 200,000 baht, over the last month. They’re cut was 45,000 baht a month, which is around $1,300 USD.
South Korea’s National Gambling Commission recently published a study that reported the country’s illegal sports betting market was worth KRW 17.5t (US $15.6b) in 2012. The Korean Institute of Criminology claimed this sum jumped to KRW 31t in 2013. The National Assembly Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism committee claimed the number of illegal sports betting cases reported to police was 46,527 in 2013, a six-fold increase from just two years earlier. This year, over 30k cases have already been reported to police in just six months. The Thai government knows this problem will persist and not simply go away, and so a stronger cooperation between the two nations will be needed if they truly want to crack down on illegal sports betting.