Bookie-tiam? World Cup fever turns illegal at Geylang coffee shops

Bookie-tiam? World Cup fever turns illegal at Geylang coffee shops

SINGAPORE - The streets of Geylang were almost like a ghost town after midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Except at some coffee shops, where the crowds were spilling into the lorongs.

World Cup fever has come to Geylang.

And where there's football, there's money to be made - and lost. It's a temptation that bookies and punters alike cannot resist.

BOOKIES' TABLE?

When The New Paper checked out a coffee shop showing the quarter-final match between Germany and France, it was initially not obvious that illegal betting was going on.

We approached a man and discreetly asked if he knew where we could place a bet. He looked at us, shook his head and said: "I'm here to watch."

Then, with his arms folded, he tilted his head in the direction of a table occupied by five middle-aged men.

After several minutes of observing them, it became obvious that we had hit the jackpot.

Other people, nearly all men, kept popping by their table. They were seen whispering into one particular man's ear.

They then passed him money and he in turn scribbled something on pieces of paper and handed them to his visitors.

Just as the match kicked off, the man could be seen sticking a thick wad of notes into his shirt pocket.

Some distance away were two men who kept looking around the lorong, as if they were looking out for anything unexpected, such as an approaching police patrol car.

Their attention was briefly diverted when a beer "auntie" shouted at some men who were watching the match without buying drinks from the coffee shop. They seemed to be foreign workers.

Most men in the coffee shop looked like locals.

Not even the sight of pretty women in figure-hugging outfits walking past the coffee shop could get their attention. Their eyes were glued to the action unfolding on TV.

But some men occasionally fiddled with their mobile phones or tablets. Were they placing bets online?

We then noticed another table closer to the road that was occupied by a group of younger men. They, too, were receiving money from people who went up to them.

An elderly man, who appeared to be drunk, approached a young man and said aloud in Hokkien: "How many balls you give, I will eat." He was quickly dragged away by his friends.

After the match ended with a 1-0 win for Germany, most of the customers dispersed, some cursing under their breath.

A few of them were seen heading to the two tables where money changed hands again, except that it was now the visitors receiving the cash, probably their winnings.

TNP's check on another coffee shop screening World Cup matches showed similar scenarios taking place there.

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