Law enforcements and regulators in Asia are saying there has been an increased level of activities from illegal gambling operators who are using cryptocurrencies as a way to avoid prosecution.
According to Reuters, illegal gambling is prevalent in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand where football, or soccer depending on what side of the pond you’re on is extremely popular. Industry experts say that these two countries have increased level of illegal gambling because there are currently no legal alternatives for people to wager on this year’s World Cup in those countries. Even in places where gambling is legal, such as South Korea or Hong Kong the legal market is only a fraction of the illegal marketplace that exists. Illegal bookies have transitioned their services online through mobile platforms, which makes it harder on law enforcement agencies to track and shut down these operations.
Macau and Hong Kong police have said illegal syndicates prefer to use programs like WeChat to place and track bets. Interpol has also said that the emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has made it easier for these organizations to facilitate illegal bets.
Betting is big business. Globally It accounts for $500 billion each year, 80 percent or the lion's share is from Asia according to the Transparency International and the Asian Racing Federation. Betting in this years 2018 World Cup is expected to be much larger than during the 2014’s World Cup, which law enforcement uncovered $2.2 billion worth of bets that took place in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. The world cup is expected to kick off on Thursday between Russia and Saudi Arabia.