PETALING JAYA: The 2016 UEFA European Championship is just around the corner and all eyes are on France. No, not all eyes.
Police here are gearing up for the other "high-stakes" game - the RM120mil (S$40mil) illegal gambling industry.
It is becoming more difficult for police now with the easy availability of smartphones, through which betting can be done anywhere and anytime.
Bukit Aman Secret Societies, Gambling and Vice Division (D7) has spent about a month on preparations as its members are well aware that when a big football event takes place, big bets are sure to follow.
Bukit Aman D7 principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Roslee Chik said they are ready to launch an all-out assault on the illegal betting syndicates through a nationwide operations Ops Soga.
"During the Fifa World Cup (in Brazil) two years ago, we estimate that about RM120.76mil in bets were wagered.
"We conducted 828 raids nationwide throughout the Finals and, of that, 346 were successful. We arrested 414 men and 10 women aged between 16 and 65," he said.
SAC Roslee said his teams also seized RM454,088 cash, 64 laptops, 49 computers, 377 mobile phones, 43 iPads and 12 servers.
He said the dawn of the smartphone meant that gamblers and betting syndicates could do their business online anywhere and anytime.
"We do have a technical team on standby in case we need to track down these suspects.
"For this year's Ops Soga, we will mobilise all of our personnel in the division including elements of the Special Task Force for Anti-Vice, Gaming and Gangsterism (STAGG)," he said.
SAC Roslee explained that combating gambling syndicates required the police to think on their feet and change their gameplan as the championship goes on.
"With each passing championship, we learn new lessons and get valuable information.
"The syndicates can change their modus operandi at anytime and we have to be aware and adapt our strategies accordingly," he said, adding that they would use the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Act 2001 (Amlata) to go after the betting syndicates.
Betting on football matches is illegal in Malaysia and even those who place bets on gambling websites that are legal in other countries will face action.
Some of the betting apps easily available are IBCBET, Asian Handicap and bwin.
It was previously reported that the total amount of bets for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa amounted to almost half a billion.
At the time, police arrested 143 people including a 15-year-old and 73-year-old.
A total of 270 premises were raided nationwide during the month-long tournament and RM110,124 seized.