EURO 2020 Illegal Betting Crackdown Deals ‘Huge Blow’ to Crime Syndicates as Authorities Seize $7.9m

  • Operation SOGA VIII resulted in $7.9m in seizures and 1,400 arrests in 28 different countries 
  • Hong Kong police detained more than 800 suspects and seized nearly $2.7m in their crackdown
  • Italy inspected 280 betting shops during EURO 2020, resulting in €1.3m ($1.5m) in sanctions
  • Illegal gambling is a global issue, resulting in recent arrests in Thailand, South Korea, and the US
Euro 2020 logo with soccer ball
During EURO 2020, authorities across the globe seized $7.9m from black market operators as part of an Interpol crackdown on illegal wagering. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A busy summer for Interpol

This summer’s UEFA European Football Championship (EURO 2020) was a huge boost for sportsbooks across the globe, with bettors wagering on the soccer competition in droves. As legal operators raked in their profits, Interpol also saw great success in a crackdown on illegal betting syndicates.

The global crime-fighting agency has revealed that an operation focused on illegal EURO 2020 betting led to 1,400 arrests and the seizure of $7.9m in cash. Interpol took to twitter on Tuesday to reveal the details of Operation SOGA VIII, which it said dealt a “huge blow” to illegal betting syndicates:

Led by Interpol’s Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption units, the operation targeted illegal gambling activities in 28 countries including China, Italy, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. The crackdown also focused on online operations, with authorities seizing computers and mobile phones connected to nearly $465m in wagers.

From Asia to Europe

In a statement released to its website on Tuesday, Interpol revealed the details of specific operations in Asia and Europe which led to multiple arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars.

Hong Kong police detained more than 800 suspects in relation to EURO 2020 betting. This included the alleged kingpin of a triad-controlled sports betting syndicate. In the process, authorities seized nearly $2.7m in cash and found records detailing hundreds of millions in bets. Interpol described it as one of Hong Kong’s “most successful operations against illegal gambling ever.”

acting on a global scale and generating huge profits.”

Wong Wai, head of Hong Kong Police’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau and chairman of Interpol’s Asia-Pacific Expert Group on Organized Crime, commented on Operation SOGA VIII. He said: “Our collective experience helped us anticipate links between betting syndicates and their illegal counterparts during EURO 2020.”

Wai said this led them to syndicates “acting on a global scale and generating huge profits.”

Elsewhere, SOGA VIII also saw active participation from Italian police. Roberto Ribaudo, director of Economic and Financial Crime Division for Interpol in Rome, revealed the details of Italy’s crackdown. He said inspections on 280 betting shops resulted in €1.3m ($1.5m) in sanctions for illegal operations.

SOGA VIII is the eighth Interpol operation of its kind. In total, the eight crackdowns have resulted in more than 19,100 arrests, seizures of more than $63m, and the closure of over 4,000 illegal gambling dens.

A global issue of illegal gambling

Authorities in markets all over the world have been attempting to crack down on illegal gambling over the years, with varied degrees of success.

Chinese police have taken a particularly hard stance on illegal gambling in the country over the past few years. In 2020, authorities made more than 75,000 arrests, busting thousands of online platforms, and cracking over 3,500 cross-border gambling cases. Police also destroyed more than 1,960 illegal payment platforms and undergound banks.

South Korea authorities seized KRW8.12bn ($7.2m)

More recently, June brought arrests in Thailand and South Korea as police cracked down on illegal sports betting websites. Thai police arrested 104 soccer betting site operators for running sites with more than THB1bn ($31.3m) in profits. Meanwhile, South Korea authorities seized KRW8.12bn ($7.2m) in a bust on two betting sites, arresting 17 operators in the process.

Despite its growing legal gambling market, even the US still has its issues with illegal operators. In April of this year, the FBI and police raided 24 locations in San Diego as part of a two-year illegal gambling sting. It ultimately led to the indictment of 47 individuals on charges related to illegal casinos, including the possession of drugs. Police seized $263,000 in cash during the two-year operation.