South Korean authorities arrested 17 suspects and detained another 21 people during raids Monday of two illegal sports betting operations based in the major city of Busan, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
As part of the raid, police seized about US$1.72 million in cash. Police also seized three apartments and two houses. The residences were possibly purchased via profits from the illegal gambling operations, Yonhap said.
The total value of the two gambling rings was estimated at $797 million, the report said. The 17 suspects were charged with operating illegal sports gambling sites and violations of the National Sports Promotion Act.
Police raided offices of the gambling operations. Also raided were the residences of the key operators of the gambling rings.
Even though 38 people were apprehended, police were still searching this week for a reputed key operator of the ring. He is believed to be in his 40s. He left South Korea and Interpol is now searching for him.
He allegedly was operating a South Korean gambling ring for more than four years. It included some 3,300 members. Servers were employed in China, Vietnam, and other nations.
Busan is the second-most populous city in the East Asian nation. It is located on the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean raids come just a month before the 2021 Olympics kick off in Tokyo. Many bets are likely to take place at the summer Olympic games.
Last year, US-based casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) said it would open a multibillion-dollar casino resort in South Korea at Incheon International Airport in the second half of 2022.
It will be called “Inspire Entertainment Resort.” Construction started in 2019.
When complete, it will include three luxury hotels, a large theater, and a convention center, as well as many casino games. South Korean residents will be prohibited from entering the casino. Foreigners can gamble, however.
Incheon International is South Korea’s main air hub for Seoul. That is the nation’s largest city. Incheon International currently has private sleeping rooms, a golf course, a spa, an ice rink, a video game center, the Museum of Korean Culture, an indoor garden, and a medical center.
Kangwon Land, a casino resort owned and operated by the South Korean government, does let residents gamble. It is located in Gangwon Province.
MGE recently was given gaming rights for a casino resort in Athens, Greece. MGE is owned by the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut.