Over 4,000 individuals have been arrested following their involvement in a series of coordinated raids throughout 11 different countries during the 2016 UEFA European Championship


On July 18, the International Law Enforcement Agency (Interpol), which oversees cross-border policing, stated that it carried out two separate investigations over the football tournament, with the first (Operation SOGA V1) seeing it crack down on illegal sports gambling rings in China, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam in the last 2 months. 


The second operation, known as Aces, saw the agency target illegal gambling sites throughout Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and South Korea. Both operations saw Interpol collectively seize over $13.6 million in illegal sports bets, though it’s estimated that over $465 million was handled illegally during the Euro 2016 event. 


A 12-Year Long Chase


The two latest operations mark the sixth investigation carried out by Interpol, which has so far seen the organization conduct over 12,500 arrests, put an end to more than 3,400 illegal gambling operations, and seized over $63 million in cash since 2008 until now. All of the investigations immediately occurred after a major-scale football tournament.  


The head of Interpol’s anti-corruption and financial crimes unit said that “Illegal gambling generates massive profits for organized crime networks which are often linked to corruption, human trafficking, and money laundering,”


Mixed Views


Despite many praising Interpol’s success and diligence in rooting out these illegal gambling rings, not everyone seems to agree with its approach. Chris Eaton, a former employee for Interpol, FIFA, and the International Centre for Sports Security in Qatar, who also happens to be a leading world expert in both match-fixing and illegal betting, spoke to the Press Association and had this to say on the matter. 


“Interpol has been co-ordinating anti-sport gambling operations in Asia for years now, always with big arrest and seizure figures of the easy-to-detect smaller street operators.


“The big organized online gambling operators turning over billions – often infiltrated if not controlled by criminals in safe-haven countries like the Philippines and Malaysia – escape this attention.


“These big international operators under quasi-legal cover are massively vulnerable to fraud and are the source of most of the cash that funds and inspires match-fixing. Small-scale and token police operations look good but tend to enhance the mega-illegal operators by cutting out the smaller ones. In this sense, it is counter-intuitive”.


“Only co-ordinated global government intervention will clean up gambling and save sport, and Interpol would be wiser to encourage this than play with the minor leagues of illegal gambling.”


Asian Hot Spots


Several investment analysts have expressed that there is always the potential for negative correlations between the timing of major international football and soccer tournaments – particularly when it concerns the Euro and FIFA World Cup championships, which last for around a month each. 


Illegal betting on football and soccer games typically turns rife in parts of Asia when an international tournament is taking place, particularly in Macau. This is due to the benefits of increased betting that organizers find most attractive ─ despite the risks involved and the underlying prospect of arrest. 


Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, commented on July 11 that “We think the Euro Cup [sic] could have propelled some VIP patrons to gamble less in Macau. This could also have affected premium mass. But this is temporary, in our view.”


Optimism Continues


Regional enforcement agencies have praised Interpol to say that this year’s two operations were certainly the “most significant” since the investigations began in 2008.


Chief superintendent Chan Lok Wing from the news agency Reuters said that “The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years. The SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organized networks behind this and other types of crime.”

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Jean Carter is from Oakland, California and studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California. After graduation, and pining for a warmer climate, Jean relocated to the Tule Springs suburb of Las Vegas, where she owns and operates her own online jewelry boutique incorporating traditional native American styles with her own unique designs. A true fan of the sophistication and glamor of Las Vegas casino life, Jean is also a freelance blogger specializing in all things suave and fashionable surrounding the casino lifestyle.