More than 5,000 people have been taken into custody in a crackdown on illegal World Cup gambling. Police raided hundreds of betting dens across Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China, including Hong Kong and Macau. Anchor Marco Werman gets the story from The World's Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing.
MARCO WERMAN: More than 5,000 people have been taken into custody in a crackdown on illegal World Cup gambling. Police raided hundreds of betting dens according to the international police agency, Interpol. Interpol coordinated the operation in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China, including Hong Kong and Macau. Police also seized 10 million dollars in the operation. The World's Mary Kay Magistad is following the story from Beijing. Mark Kay, 5,000 arrests, are these organized criminals or just a bunch of guys in various back rooms around Asia?
KAY MAGISTAD: I think it's all of the above and probably some women as well. About 3,800 of those arrested came from Thailand, but in China is where detectives confiscated the most money, about 8 million out of that 10 million. And they arrested about 1,200 gamblers and racketeers. But of those who were actually organizing the gambling, Interpol made a point of saying that a lot of them are linked to organized gangs that are involved not just in gambling, but also in prostitution, human trafficking, money laundering, and other things.
WERMAN: Right, I mean it goes well beyond gambling. How big is that net right now as far as those other vices of corruption and prostitution and money laundering?
MAGISTAD: Well hard to know how big all together, but they know that this could lead to uncovering other rings, other crimes, other sets of connections, so. This is the third time that Interpol has gone after gambling related to international football matches and all together they've arrested about 7,000 people. So they seem to think that it's worth going after. This is obviously the biggest set of arrests they've made so far.
WERMAN: Does any of this mean that the World Cup games themselves could have been fixed?
MAGISTAD: There isn't evidence yet that has arisen that the World Cup itself has been fixed, certainly by the gamblers in Asia. There have been some questions raised in Europe about some of the earlier matches, I think particularly in Turkey. Those are being investigated. There were some questions raised about the Nigeria-Greece match. Those are being investigated. But so far there hasn't been anything that has been definitive. And a related piece of information, though, is that in China the frustrated fans here learned earlier this year that there had been a long series of attempts to fix games by Chinese soccer officials over the past decade. And that in many cases it's where the team decides that they're going to lose the match and lose the match by a certain number of goals and that they get a certain amount of money for doing that. At least it would be one explanation why the team has done so badly over time.
WERMAN: And how popular is gambling, legal gambling, in China? Is there any legal gambling in China?
MAGISTAD: Oh, it's hugely popular. The casinos in Macau now take in more money than the casinos in Las Vegas by a significant margin. And in fact I remember when I was down in Macau talking to a casino owner not long ago, I mean he was talking about the difference between Macau and Las Vegas and this was when some of the big Las Vegas casinos we're planning to come in and open up branches, as it were, in Macau. And he was shaking his head and saying they just don't get it. In Las Vegas they have wedding chapels and they have family parks, and so forth. Here we have serious gamblers. They come into a quiet room and they sit and they gamble. Now the part that he didn't necessarily mention in that conversation is that a lot of those serious gamblers are local Chinese officials who sometimes are gambling with government money and that problem has become so severe that the central government in China has actually limited how often local government officials can go to Macau.
WERMAN: Well, we'll see how all of this shakes out I'm sure. The World's Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing. Thank you very much.
MAGISTAD: Thank you, Marco.