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66-year-old cleaner jailed 4 weeks for taking illegal bets while Singapore Pools' betting centres were shut

SINGAPORE — A 66-year-old cleaner, who took illegal bets for horse races at a hawker centre while betting centres around Singapore were closed due to Covid-19, was jailed for two weeks and fined S$20,000 on Thursday (May 19). 

66-year-old cleaner jailed 4 weeks for taking illegal bets while Singapore Pools' betting centres were shut
Wee Yap Kwang, 66, was caught redhanded by a police officer, who was deployed to a hawker centre to observe illegal betting activities taking place.
  • Wee Yap Kwang, 66, took illegal bets for horse racing amounting to S$125
  • He was arrested in February 2021 by police officers after leaving a hawker centre where the betting took place
  • At the time, Singapore Pools' off-course betting centres, where punters could place bets legally, were closed

SINGAPORE — A 66-year-old cleaner, who took illegal bets for horse races at a hawker centre while betting centres around Singapore were closed due to Covid-19, was jailed for two weeks and fined S$20,000 on Thursday (May 19). 

Wee Yap Kwang was found guilty of receiving bets amounting to S$125 at a hawker centre at Block 628, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 on Feb 7 last year.

He will serve another two weeks’ jail because he did not pay the fine, a court heard. 

At the time, physical betting outlets operated by gaming operator Singapore Pools had been shut since March 2020 around the period of a partial lockdown. They only reopened in July 2021 at a reduced capacity. 

The court heard on Thursday that Wee was caught redhanded by a police officer, who was deployed to the hawker centre to observe illegal betting activities taking place. 

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ng Shao Yan said that at about 2.10pm, the officer spotted a “mini congregation” at one of the tables,

“This involved several elderly male subjects approaching and handing over money to the accused. The accused was seen receiving and keeping the money,” DPP Ng said.

After Wee left the hawker centre, a group of police officers arrested him and found S$102 in cash in his chest pocket and S$805 in his wallet. 

Investigations revealed that he had received bets for horse races from three men:

  • Cheng Joo Kok, 78, who placed a S$25 bet. He was earlier convicted of illegal betting and fined S$800
  • Tan Tze Yong, 70, who placed a S$50 bet. He was given a stern warning
  • Ow Ah Soo, 67, who placed a S$50 bet. He was also given a stern warning

These congregations of punters and bookies — many of them were seniors — has swelled in the past year or so, The Straits Times reported in April.

A police spokesperson was quoted in the newspaper as saying that more than 2,400 people were arrested for illegal gambling activities from 2019 to 2021, and a quarter of these people were arrested for illegal horse betting activities. 

In comparison, more than 60 people were arrested for illegal horse betting in 2018.

On Thursday, DPP Ng asked for two weeks’ jail and a S$50,000 fine, noting that Wee had committed similar offences in the past, though he added that some of these offences were quite dated.

Wee’s lawyer Audrey Koo from Populus Law asked for one week’s jail and a S$20,000 fine.

Ms Koo said that the value of the bets was small and called it a “one-off incident”.

She added that when he was convicted of a similar offence in 2013 — gaming in public — he was fined S$1,000 then.

She also said that Wee has very little savings and suffers from depression and panic disorder. He requires surgery to remove a tumour in his chest. 

“We are humbly urging for mercy and urge your honour to impose the minimum sentence for my client.”

For acting as a bookmaker, Wee could have been fined between S$20,000 and S$200,000 and jailed up to five years under the Betting Act.

Related topics

Singapore Pools Gambling court crime illegal betting hawker centre

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