Geylang, bookie central
THE streets of Geylang were almost like a ghost town after midnight on Friday and Saturday. Except at some coffee shops, where the crowds were spilling into the lorongs.
World Cup fever has come to Geylang.
And where there's football, there's money to be made - and lost. It's a temptation that bookies and punters alike cannot resist.
When The New Paper (TNP) checked out a coffee shop showing the quarter-final match between Germany and France, it was initially not obvious that illegal betting was going on.
We approached a man and discreetly asked if he knew where we could place a bet. He looked at us, shook his head and said: "I'm here to watch."
Then, with his arms folded, he tilted his head in the direction of a table occupied by five middle-aged men.
After several minutes of observing them, it became obvious that we had hit the jackpot. Other people, nearly all men, kept popping by their table. They were seen whispering into one particular man's ear.
They then passed him money and he scribbled something on pieces of paper and handed them to his visitors.
Some distance away were two men who kept looking around the lorong, as if they were looking out for something, such as an approaching police patrol car.
Their attention was diverted briefly when a beer "auntie" shouted at some men who were watching the match without buying drinks from the coffee shop. The men seemed to be foreign workers.
Most men in the coffee shop looked like Singaporeans. Not even pretty women in figure-hugging outfits walking past the coffee shop could get their attention. Their eyes were glued to the TV.
But some men occasionally fiddled with their mobile phones or tablets. Were they placing bets online?
We then noticed another table closer to the road that was occupied by a group of younger men. They, too, were receiving money from people who went up to them.
After the match ended with a 1-0 win for Germany, most of the customers dispersed, some cursing under their breath.
A few of them were seen heading to the two tables where money changed hands again, except that it was now the visitors receiving the cash, probably their winnings.
TNP's check on another coffee shop screening World Cup matches showed similar scenarios taking place there.
However, a regular in Geylang said that only "old school" punters placed bets at coffee shops.
Giving his name as Ah Ken, the 35-year-old said: "The heavy punters use illegal-betting runners or stay at home in front of their laptops to lock in bets. The ones who bet at coffee shops are ah peks (Hokkien for "older men") or foreign workers who don't use technology.
"These people bet small, in the hundreds. Or maybe at most a few thousand," he said.
Responding to queries from TNP, a spokesman for police said that they take a serious view of all forms of illegal betting and will prosecute bookmakers and bettors alike to the fullest extent of the law.
THE NEW PAPER