Vietnam’s police busted Friday an online gambling ring that had reportedly netted around $26 million in wagers from Vietnamese customers, local news outlets report citing authorities.
The reports come as the World Cup is in full swing and police in the Asia-Pacific region are enhancing their efforts to curb illegal sports betting, particularly in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia where football has a massive following.
Four people were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday after police conducted organized raids. The detained individuals could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. According to the state-run Vietnam Television, the illegal gambling ring had processed transactions worth over VND600 billion (approximately $26 million) since the beginning of 2017.
Aside from arresting four alleged organizers of illegal betting in the country, police also seized Friday more than VND300 million (approx. $13,000) in cash and equipment, including multiple mobile phones and computers.
Local news outlets reported that the detained individuals were involved in the operation of the 12bet online gambling portal. The website was found to have been owned by a foreign company and to have been hosted in the Philippines. It was believed that thousands of Vietnamese people have wagered on it since the early 2017.
In order to place their bets, bettors had to open an account with the illegal gambling operation and transfer money from their bank accounts. The money was then converted into a virtual currency that customers could spend on the website. Aside from sports betting, the website also offered online casino games and online lottery products.
Legal Status of Betting in Vietnam
With very few exceptions, gambling is illegal in Vietnam. There are several land-based casinos around the country but residents are not admitted to these. A state-run lottery provides a limited number of services to Vietnamese gamblers, and following the recent introduction of amendments to the country’s gambling laws, customers are now able to place bets legally on a small number of international matches. They are allowed to wager no more than $44 per match.
On the other hand, black market gambling operations have been thriving in Vietnam as well as the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. According to recent data, Asia is home to the world’s largest illegal gambling market. Illegal operations on the continent are believed to be representing around 80% of the global black betting market, which is estimated to be worth $500 billion in terms of wagers placed.
Vietnam’s latest illegal gambling ring was busted just three months after another massive operation was discovered by local police. Back in March, authorities arrested dozens of people including a former director of the country’s General Police Department. Police raids back then also resulted into the seizure of nearly VND1 trillion (approx. $44 million) in cash and equipment and other assets. The illegal gambling group was found to have operated two websites since 2015.