Euro 2016 a match between HK jailbird gamblers and wardens
THE Uefa European Football Championship - although still a week from kick-off - has already excited the world's gamblers into action, including prisoners in Hong Kong, who have been found to use cigarettes as wagers and get their tips from the radio, friends and relatives.
Hong Kong's Correctional Services Department (CSD), which manages the city's prisons, conducted more than 3,000 surprise inspections on nearly all the cells in the first four months of this year as it expected gambling activities behind bars to increase in the run-up to Uefa 2016, the Sing Tao Daily reported.
The inspections seized 31 betting records and more than 600 packets of cigarettes used as stakes.
Sixty-four prisoners, most of them male adults, were confirmed to have participated in gambling activities or to be the possessors of gambling kits.
Their penalties include denial of sentence commutation, a cut in wages and solitary confinement, said Lam Wai On, acting senior superintendent of quality assurance in CSD.
"The gamblers hid their betting records in talcum powder bottles, the cuffs of their uniforms, their shirt pockets, and the window ventilators in the prison workshops as they tried to outwit the guards," added Mr Lam.
Liao Wing Lok, a principal officer from CSD, told Wen Wei Po that tips for betting on Uefa teams and games are removed from publications, but inmates could still get them from the radio.
The main aim of this year's inspections was to prevent a dramatic rise in fighting cases among prisoners over debts, like what happened during the 2014 World Cup.
That year, anti-gambling inspections in prisons seized 80 betting records and 6,600 packets of cigarettes, and 46 inmates were disciplined.
Betting with a bookmaker and betting in a place other than a gambling establishment are illegal in Hong Kong.