Hong Kong police smash gambling racket that used arcade machines for betting games

Clifford Lo

Hong Kong police have broken up what they believe is a sophisticated gambling syndicate behind a network of underground casinos that used arcade machines for betting games and served those from the criminal underworld, force insiders said on Tuesday.

Detectives believed the racket, run by a gang of mainland men from Hunan province, had raked in more than HK$14 million (US$1.8 million) from its eight betting establishments in Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po in the past six months.

One police source said its command centre was set up in Mong Kok to collect business takings from the keepers of its gambling dens each night.

“To avoid detection, the money was transferred into their bank accounts on the mainland via money changers.”

Some of the gambling syndicate’s money seized by police. Photo: Handout

He said the gang operated its gambling dens in residential flats in old buildings in the Kowloon West region and arcade machines running fishing games were used for betting games. Before playing, gamblers were required to buy cards for recording their scores, and points could be exchanged for cash, according to police.

“Like slot machines, a jackpot was given out regularly to attract gamblers to keep playing,” the source said, adding that free drinks and meals were also provided at the venues.

He said most of the clients were from the underworld, including drug traffickers and triad members.

Like slot machines, a jackpot was given out regularly to attract gamblers to keep playing

A police source

The police source said he believed each gambling den made a profit of HK$10,000 per night and the syndicate pocketed more than HK$14 million from the eight gambling dens in the past six months.

After in-depth investigations to collect evidence and identify its ringleaders, officers from the special duty squad and anti-triad unit of Sham Shui Po police district swooped into action on Sunday.

Police arrested 28 people in a series of raids and closed down their gambling dens with the seizure of 18 arcade machines.

Among the suspects were two alleged ringleaders – mainland men aged 39 and 41 – who were picked up in the syndicate’s Mong Kok command centre. Inside the flat, officers seized HK$100,000 along with some extendable batons and baseball bats.

Some of the items seized from the syndicate’s command centre. Photo: Handout

On Monday, the 29th suspect – a 40-year-old mainland man – who was also believed to be another ringleader, was arrested when he returned to the command centre.

Police arrested the three alleged ringleaders for operating illegal gambling establishments and money laundering. In Hong Kong, the offence of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 14 years behind bars and a HK$5 million fine.

Another police source said officers were checking the suspects’ bank accounts and seized evidence in an effort to track down the illegal money.

Officers believe they had smashed the gambling syndicate in the operation, adding that investigation was continuing and further arrests were possible.

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