Police bust Korea’s biggest betting ring ever

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Police bust Korea’s biggest betting ring ever

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency raided illegal gambling houses in southern Seoul, where some 140 billion won ($12 million) was wagered every day, the police announced Wednesday. It was the biggest illegal gambling racket ever busted.

A gambling syndicate had rented rooms in apartments in Gangnam, Songpa and Seocho districts, southern Seoul, to run illicit gambling houses disguised as business offices since 2011. The gangsters moved the gambling houses every two to three months to avoid being detected by the police.

According to the police, seven gang members, including a 39-year-old ringleader surnamed Yoon, were arrested on charges of operating illegal gambling sites and 69 staffers and 11 gamblers in the houses were booked without physical detention.

The illicit gaming parlors were run in a well-organized, professional way with budget management, security, a marketing team and contingency plans for busts by police.

The police investigation found that Yoon was assisted by a 32-year-old woman surnamed Ahn, who was in charge of managing the finances, and a 39-year-old man surnamed Park, Yoon’s right-hand man.

The operation has consistently grown, and the ring has pocketed a total of 30 billion won since 2011, police claim. At the time of the bust, the empire consisted of seven gambling houses in different parts of Seoul.

“I managed 70 percent of all the gambling sites operating in Seoul,” one arrested functionary told the police.

The customers were largely ordinary housewives or office workers. Some lost everything because they became addicted to gambling, said the police.

“The gambling house staffers told me that if I brought in about 1 million won, I could earn 10 times that,” testified one of the gamblers.

The main operators of the gambling parlors regularly held meetings in which Yoon delivered management guidelines to staffers.

The parlors’ policies included giving a certain amount of money to gamblers who lost all their money for transportation home. It was policy for the whole syndicate to temporarily halt all operations when one site run by the group was raided by the police.

In June 2015, the group even held a company outing to Gyeonggi, where the staffers wrestled and played tug-of-war to build unity in the ring.

“With an ever increasing number of illegal gambling sites in urban areas,” said a police officer investigating the case, “our crackdowns will be strengthened.”

BY JUNG JIN-WOO [shin.sooyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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