Police in Preah Sihanouk province arrested nine people on Sunday for running an illegal gambling ring that took bets on World Cup matches, but due to the early phase of the tournament decided not to charge the suspects, officials said yesterday.
The eight men and one woman were arrested in Sihanoukville city’s commune III at 4pm Sunday following raids at two separate locations in the city, according to deputy provincial police chief Kao Ratana. Police found handwritten books detailing bets of between $15 and $30 and an amount of cash, he said, though he declined to say how much money was confiscated by police officers.
Mr Ratana said court prosecutors decided not to charge the suspects, asking them instead to sign a statement promising to stop gambling.
“If they commit illegal betting again the court will charge them,” he said.
The suspects were held in the provincial police station for 24 hours and were to be released at 4 pm yesterday, Mr Ratana said.
Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Tak Vantha said the suspects were not charged because the World Cup had only just gotten under way.
“If they dare to run illegal betting rings we will crack down, but since the World Cup only started on Friday we only raided the two biggest operations,” he said.
Sihanoukville city police chief Man Tour said the arrests would serve as a warning to the public to stop betting on the World Cup as it gets closer to the main play offs.
In a June 9 speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on police to watch out for illegal World Cup betting, but also told police to not be too strict.
Mr Vantha said provincial police have established a task force to focus on unlawful football betting.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said that his officers are working to follow the premier’s orders and he appealed to the public to report any instances of illegal betting.
Several Phnom Penh residents, interviewed yesterday but who declined to be named for fear of prosecution, said most of the illegal betting in the capital for this year’s World Cup is happening online, where users can safely create private accounts to place bets.