Police bust enormous gambling den in Central Highlands forest

By Quoc Thang   March 31, 2019 | 06:56 pm PT
Police bust enormous gambling den in Central Highlands forest
130 gamblers were detained as police busted a gambling den in Gia Lai Province on Sunday. Photo by VnExpress/Quoc Thang
More than 100 officers from Saigon went hundreds of kilometers to a forest in Gia Lai Sunday to break up a gambling den.

In a scene straight out of an action movie, officers from the Department of Criminal Police traveled 500 kilometers (300 miles) and went stealthily to Dak Doa, a district in Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands, and caught hundreds of gamblers red-handed playing soc dia (shaking the plate), a Vietnamese gambling game in which coin-shaped tokens are shaken in a bowl.

After firing warning shots, they arrested 130 gamblers, many of them women, and seized money worth nearly VND300 million ($12,900). There were 70 cars at the scene.

They then went in various directions looking for the organizer of the gambling den, Nguyen Manh Hung, aka Hung Sida, 35, and his gang.

They were finally arrested at a local pass after a chase lasting many hours in the forest.

Hung is a notorious gangster in the Central Highlands who ran his operations in a mountainous area, attracting hundreds of gamblers from Da Nang, the central provinces of Nghe An and Phu Yen, and even Hai Phong City in the north.

The gambling would go on day and night with big stakes, sometimes of up to VND1 billion ($43,112).

"Since this was the largest gambling operation in the Central Highlands, we had to move secretly from Ho Chi Minh City and pass through mountain forests," an officer in the raiding party said.

"Because of the darkness and difficult terrain, several gamblers managed to flee."

The police are continuing to investigate.

Gambling has for long been dealt with as a "social evil" by Vietnamese authorities. But the government legalized sports betting in 2017 and said it would allow Vietnamese aged over 21 and with a monthly income of at least VND10 million ($445) to gamble at designated casinos. 

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