Police arrested 15 people for illegal football betting in an islandwide operation on Saturday.
Th 14 men and one woman, aged between 23 and 70, were nabbed after a series of raids. The suspects had allegedly accepted illegal bets totalling about $800,000 in the past two weeks.
About $350,000 in cash, computers, mobile phones and documents showing betting records and bank transactions were also seized.
In 2010, the year when the last World Cup was held, 1,009 people were arrested for illegal gambling and betting activities here, said the police. Last year, there were 640 arrests.
Experts said that illegal betting is "dangerous" because of how "convenient" it is to place a bet and also because bets can be made on credit.
Addictions specialist Munidasa Winslow told My Paper: "People do bet more over a phone and act almost like it's not real money. It's on credit. If you cannot pay, they add interest to it, and arrange for loan sharks to offer you a loan. That's how people end up getting into debts.
"Illegal bookies tend to give better rates, so people want to bet with them. But once you get sucked in, it's difficult to get out."
Gerald Goh, clinical director of counselling centre ECMS Consultants, added that bookies take bets even when the match is ongoing, and this can be addictive because people tend to get more emotional during a match and make bets they cannot afford.
He said: "When they lose money, they try to offset the losses by betting more. But the consequences have to be taken very seriously."
He gave examples of a man who got fired from his job because the creditors went to his workplace to look for him, and another one where an undergraduate had to help the syndicate recruit more bookies because he owed it money.
Even teenagers as young as 15 are sucked into this habit.
Said Mr Goh: "There was a Secondary 3 boy who owed his friend $300. That friend wasn't working for a syndicate, it was a bet between the two of them. Their parents had to meet up and resolve the issue together.
"It is important for parents and teachers to teach the young ones the right values. Sometimes, adults glorify gambling. Parents will take the children out for a good meal or buy toys when they win money. But they don't tell them about their debts when they lose. And more often than not, you lose more than you win."
Government agencies here have plans to tackle illegal betting.
The National Council on Problem Gambling is running television, radio and newspaper advertisements and ads at cinemas, bus stops and coffee shops, during the World Cup to highlight problem gambling.
The National Crime Prevention Council has invited people to design posters warning of the penalties of betting illegally during the World Cup. The winning design will be placed at HDB noticeboards and coffee shops islandwide soon.
Anyone convicted of placing illegal bets can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to six months. Convicted bookies face a fine of $20,000 to $200,000 and a jail term of up to five years.
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