SBOBET denies links to illegal betting ring at Caesars

By Emma Rumney
Asian operator SBOBET has issued a statement to rebuff claims that an illegal World Cup betting operation busted on the Vegas strip was using its website to process wagers.

The multimillion-dollar sports betting ring operating from three suites in Caesars Palace was shut down by FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents last week after they were tipped off by Caesars staff.

Eight people from China, Hong Kong and Malaysia were arrested, including wealthy businessman and prominent poker player Paul Phua, who is also being linked to notorious Asian organised crime syndicate the 14K Triad.

In a statement on the SBOBET website, the firm said allegations it was involved in the operation were “entirely without foundation” and that neither Phua, nor any of those arrested, have “any involvement or association with the ownership or management of SBOBET or its operators, Celton Manx LTD and Richwell Ventures LTD”.

SBOBET added that they do not accept wagers from the US and therefore any bets placed by Phua with the site from Caesars “could only have been made illegally, as press reports confirm”.

The FBI’s criminal complaint, unsealed minutes before the group’s arraignments in court, accuses the eight men of operating a betting ring from three exclusive, high-roller villas in Caesar’s Palace that logged millions of dollars in bets on World Cup games.

Agents reported finding a laptop computer logging illegal wagers and other records upon raiding the suites, where the men were said to be taking bets over WiFi and DSL lines they had casino employees install.

Caesars technicians alerted authorities after becoming suspicious of the men who had allegedly requested an unusual amount of electrical equipment and technical support. Caesars was not a target of the subsequent investigation and cooperated with authorities.

All eight defendants were arrested and charged with one count of illegal transmission of wagering information and one count of operating an illegal gambling business, both felonies. They appeared in front of US Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman in court on Monday.

Hoffman ordered that two defendents, Seng Chen Yong – described as one of the ringleaders of the operation – and his son Wai Kin Yong, both of Malaysia, be detained as flight risks. Hui Tang, from China, was also ordered to stay in custody.

Detention orders for three other defendants – Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, all of Hong Kong – were delayed until later on in the week.

Paul Phua, a.k.a Wei Seng Phua and his son, Darren Wai Kit Phua were released from custody with several restrictions.

The elder Phua was ordered to put up $2m bail along with his $48m private jet as collateral. Darren Phua was required to post $500,000 bail with the jet as collateral also. Both were ordered to stay on home detention with electronic monitoring in the third-party custody of a Las Vegas physician and friend of Paul Phua.

It has been suggested that some of Phua’s poker associates may have been involved in the activity.

Members of the poker community, including player Andrew Robl who is said to have been willing to put up $1.5m, have helped to gather assets to assist with Phua’s bail.

Phua and more than 20 other people were arrested last month in Macau for running a gambling operation that took in hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal bets on the World Cup. It is alleged that after posting bail in Macau Phua flew to Vegas where he and his associates resumed operations from Caesars.

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