Hong Kong Police Bust $17.2m Gambling Syndicate, 17 Arrested

  • Illegal gambling operation directed locals to gamble at a foreign online casino
  • Players were able to play poker, blackjack, baccarat, and dice for real money
  • The syndicate reportedly earned HK$133m (US$17.2m) in just 14 months  
locked dice, playing cards and computer keyboard
Hong Kong police have arrested 17 individuals after busting a gambling syndicate that raked in millions in a 14-month period. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Sophisticated operation smashed

Hong Kong police have busted a gambling syndicate that was allowing locals to play online casino games on a foreign gambling website. A raid resulted in police arresting 17 alleged members of the organization.

reportedly earned HK$133m (US$17.2m) in just 14 months

The syndicate reportedly earned HK$133m (US$17.2m) in just 14 months from players who took part in their gambling operation. The operation used a foreign gambling website to provide live casino gambling to locals. Games like baccarat, slots, dice games, poker, and blackjack were all on offer.

Operation “Deepskill”

Police referred to the operation using the codename “Deepskill.” Officers seized mobile phones, laptop computers, and bank cards during the raid. Officials are currently questioning the suspects.

In Hong Kong, illegal bookmaking activity has a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of HK$5m (US$645,080.96). For money laundering, time behind bars increases to 14 years. The fine is the same as the illegal booking charge.

Of the 17 arrested, nine were male and eight were female. Police revealed that some of the suspects are connected to the triad, an organized crime syndicate.

Inner workings of the syndicate

According to police, the syndicate would recruit bookmakers to find bettors to gamble at the foreign website. To remain undetected, the website server moved around from North America to Europe.

Before being allowed to play, gamblers had to pay bookmakers for game points. These points would then be converted to cash. Bookmakers were provided monetary compensation for finding gamblers either through social media sites or from referrals.

One police source stated that individuals were buying four game points for HK$1 (US$0.13) from the syndicate. They would then sell the points for HK$8 (US$1.03) to their clients.

Bookmakers told gamblers to transfer money to bank accounts or use other facilities to buy points from them. The bookmakers then helped the gamblers create online accounts. Bookmakers laundered money through various accounts and used money changers to withdraw the cash.

some of those arrested were bookmakers and others were bank account holders

Chow Cheng-yau of the Narcotics Bureau’s financial investigation unit stated that the operation started in December 2017. From December 2017 to January 2019, the syndicate collected and laundered around HK$133m (US$17.2m).

Chow suspects that some of those arrested were bookmakers and others were bank account holders. These accounts collected money from gamblers. The investigation into the gambling syndicate continues and additional arrests may take place in the future.  

Previous illegal gambling bust

This may be the most recent gambling syndicate bust in Hong Kong, but it certainly isn’t the first. Back in March, Hong Kong police busted another illegal gambling operation. It included underground casinos offering arcade machines as a way to gamble.

A Hunan province gang controlled the operation. The group reportedly amassed a profit of over HK$14m (US$1.8m) in just six months. Police pinpointed eight different establishments connected to the operation, including casinos located in Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po.