Police arrest 16, book 124 for illegal betting

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Police arrest 16, book 124 for illegal betting

Incheon police arrested 16 managers of eight illegal sports betting websites on Wednesday, and booked without detention 124 additional people accused of running the sites, who altogether made some 3.4 trillion won ($2.99 billion) from the sites’ roughly 200,000 members.

The Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency is also looking for 15 others who are on the run, including the head of the group, who took some 80 billion won in profits with him. The roughly 150 people involved in the case are accused of running eight sports betting sites from January 2013 to July of this year.

Sports Toto is the only licensed sports lottery in Korea but tens of thousands of gamblers, including minors, participate in illegal betting, making bets that add up to billions of won per game, according to police. Unlike Sports Toto, illegal betting sites do not require players to use their real names, nor are their bets limited to 100,000 won per game.

The eight illegal sports betting sites allowed users to make bets ranging from 5,000 won up to 1 million won per game. The sports most often bet on were football, baseball and basketball. The bets made online at these websites amount to 3.4 trillion won, of which 140 billion won was shared among the managers as direct profit, police said.

According to police, the project started out with one website run by a 42-year-old man and his 38-year-old brother. The brother is currently on the run. After profiting from the site, the two called in a brother-in-law, who made seven more such sites and became the president of the group. The three men hired more people to run the sites by advertising the jobs as overseas posts that pay 2 million won per month and only require a high school diploma.

“Work abroad for us and food and housing will be provided,” the advertisement said, according to police. “Your monthly salary will rise every three months by 200,000 won.”

Many young adults who applied were trained at a center in Bundang District, Gyeonggi, where they learned to perform basic tasks such as how to register games. They were then sent to Manila, Philippines, police said. To prevent these new recruits from contacting police once they found out they were running illegal sites, the managers confiscated their passports and reportedly threatened the lives of the recruits.

“I had to do as told because I had no choice,” one of the arrested workers told police.

Incheon police collaborated with immigration authorities in the Philippines and raided the group’s office in Manila, arresting on site the 16 managers and booking without detention the rest. Police at this time confiscated 1.3 billion won.

But the president of the group, who somehow got wind of the investigations, had already fled, taking with him some 80 billion won. Many arrested told police that they spent most of the money they earned in buying real estate or on adult entertainment.

“The eight illegal betting websites have some 200,000 members,” said a police officer. “Authorities are investigating how the recruits gathered members.”

BY CHOI MO-RAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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