Singapore police have broken up a major illegal online gambling ring, the first such bust since the city-state’s first legal online betting options launched. On Monday, the Singapore Police Force issued a statement announcing the arrest of 24 men and nine women following a series of raids that hit over 30 locations across Singapore on Sunday. Police said the illegal gambling ring operated several online lottery and horse betting websites. The group appears to have been a classic credit betting ring, with a network of agents who kept track of accounts and collected money from betting clients. The ring is believed to have handled wagers worth over $2m just in the past month.

In the course of their raids, police seized cash totaling around $1.3m, as well as the usual collection of computers, mobile phones and paper betting records. Police also froze bank accounts containing an additional $6.5m and 36 real estate properties worth a combined $39m. The police action is the first of its kind under the Organized Crime Act (OCA) since the Act took effect last year. Penalties for violating the OCA include fines of up to $100k and prison sentences of up to five years. The suspects also face charges under the 2014 Remote Gambling Act (RGA), which threatens prison terms of up to seven years.

The raids came one month after the launch of officially approved online gambling sites by the OpenBet-powered Singapore Pools sports lottery service and the Singapore Turf Club. Singapore’s approval of the two online gambling sites has been highly controversial, with religious groups and more conservative legislators not being shy about publicly calling the government to account for allegedly risking the health and safety of Singaporeans.

The government, which kicked out all non-Singaporean online operators in February 2015 following passage of the RGA, continues to insist that online gambling is going on anyway, so better to channel it to local operators who fear the government’s ire if they fail to abide by Singapore’s strict problem gambling mitigation policies.

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