SINGAPORE: “Give thanks for everything,” read the plaque on the wall of a one-bedroom unit on the eighth storey of an apartment complex at Lorong 30 Geylang.
It was clear the 14 men, squatting in silence with their backs against the wall and their hands on their heads, were doing anything but. A woman sat on an unmade bed, her eyes downcast.
In a joint operation late on Saturday (Nov 18) night, the police and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) arrested the 15 after raiding the unit, which was tucked away from the bustling red-light district down a narrow, quiet street.
The 15 are foreign nationals aged 30 to 51. At least four of the men work in Singapore as construction workers; another works as a hairstylist. They were arrested for gambling offences under the Common Gaming Houses Act, and one was found to have committed immigration-related offences, the police said.
About 40 police and ICA officers were involved in the bust.
They had apparently interrupted a game of cards and mahjong. A pile of cash, two mobile phones and cigarette lighters lay on a small table; behind, a mahjong table had been set up. Cigarette butts littered the floor and the smell of smoke hung in the air. A carton of beer sat open by the front door.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the woman and one of the men arrested are tenants of the unit, and are under investigation for using the unit as a common gaming house. They had been running the gambling den for about a month before their luck ran out on Saturday night.
They are believed to have provided free Wi-Fi, food and drink as part of the “service", Channel NewsAsia understands. Mahjong players paid S$50 for two hours, while card players paid the tenants S$4 to S$8 per game.
Cash totalling S$2,302 and gaming paraphernalia was seized. Investigations are ongoing, police said.
The tenants face up to three years’ jail and a fine of S$5,000 to S$50,000 if convicted of using the unit as a gambling den.
Commanding Officer of Geylang Neighbourhood Police Centre, Superintendent of Police Ben Kwok Jiann Yrong, 40, said Saturday’s raid is part of “an ongoing enforcement effort to clamp down on these activities in Geylang”. “Offenders will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Supt Kwok said.
The punishment for illegal gambling is up to six months’ jail, a fine of up to S$5,000, or both. If convicted of a crime, the work permits of foreign nationals may be cancelled, and they may be barred from entering the country again.