More than 100 people have been arrested in Hong Kong for illegal gambling on football since the 2006 FIFA World Cup kicked off.
Police said betting slips worth more than 50 million dollars (6.4 million US) had been seized in about 50 operations since the opening of the World Cup in Germany on June 9.
In the nearby gambling centre of Macau, police raided a soccer betting racket on Saturday, seizing 100 million dollars (12.8 million US) in betting slips.
According to local press, the racket was operated by a Hong Kong triad gang. A Hong Kong man, a Macau man and five mainland Chinese men were arrested during the raid.
The World Cup finals are expected to prove a big draw for punters in Hong Kong where the government estimates 50-60 billion Hong Kong dollars worth of bets are placed with illegal bookies annually.
Legal soccer gambling was introduced in this gambling-mad southern Chinese territory in 2003 in a bid to drive underground bookmakers out of business.
But restrictions on the types of bets offered, coupled with the endemic nature of soccer betting here has meant the illicit trade continues to thrive.
Police said they have teamed up with forces in Southeast Asia and China to stamp out the problem.
Proposed Merger to Create Casino Super-group
Stanley Leisure, the UK’s largest casino operator, has opened merger talks with London Clubs International that could lead to the creation of a gaming industry heavyweight worth nearly £700m.
The Online Betting deal is being orchestrated by Genting, the Malaysian conglomerate, which is a major shareholder in both companies. The talks began within the past two weeks.
Stanley Leisure is being advised by JP Morgan Cazenove, while London Clubs International (LCI) has appointed Rothschild.
Sources close to the discussions insisted the negotiations were at an early stage. But it is understood that Bob Wiper, Stanley’s chief executive, would emerge at the helm of any enlarged organisation.
At Friday’s close Stanley Leisure was worth £445m while LCI was worth £240m. Genting is Stanley’s second-biggest shareholder, with a stake of almost 12 per cent. The Malaysian conglomerate owns almost 30 per cent of LCI. Genting would control around 20 per cent of an enlarged group, based on current valuations.
Market sources have suggested that any deal will be paper-based and unlikely to place a large premium on LCI.
The discussions follow months of speculation suggesting the two groups would get together, which was sparked by Genting buying stakes in the two groups in spring last year. Analysts believe shares in both companies are already sustained by a bid premium.
Shareholders have also been calling for consolidation in the industry, in light of the threat posed by the international casino operators poised to enter the UK as a result of the Government’s proposed new supercasinos. The combined group would run more than 50 casinos across the country.
$50 Free offer from GoldenSpursCasino – NO DEPOSIT required
Stanley announced last week that it had bought the Harbour House Casino in Southampton for £5.9m. The company has concentrated on its casino operations since selling its betting shops to William Hill last year in a £327m deal. Stanley’s pre-tax profits slipped to £22.2m last year, from £24.5m in 2004.
LCI sold its Les Ambassadeurs casino in Mayfair earlier this year for £115m to help repay its bank debt. The group completed a £49m fund-raising last year as part of a renegotiation of its debts.