Illegal Gambling Operation in Argentina That Drew over 500 Spectators Busted

Police dismantled an illegal gambling operation at a recognized sports complex in Buenos Aires, Argentina over the weekend. There were over 500 spectators; however, only a small percentage participated in the gambling activity.

Clandestine penalty kick competition
Clandestine penalty kick competition
Proceeds from a clandestine penalty kick competition in Argentina. Police broke up the activity this past weekend, confiscating money, drugs and firearms. (Image: La Capital)

This past Sunday, at the Spanish Sports Athletic Club in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Flores, police uncovered a massive illegal gambling operation. There was a clandestine soccer “penalty kick championship” going on that promised cash prizes of up to ARS2 million (US$17,278) and high-end vehicles.

Police arrested 24 people, even though there were over 500 spectators in attendance. They uncovered illegal firearms, narcotics and unauthorized food sales. All of it allegedly took place as the club’s management was indifferent to what was going on.

A Major Bust

The police intervention was a joint effort involving several different agencies. It involved the Buenos Aires Prosecutor’s Office Specialized in Mass Events, the Judicial Investigations Corps of the Buenos Aires Attorney General, the Contraventions and Offenses Against Public Order Division of the city police and the Government Control Agency.

In addition to the illegal sports betting activity, there were illegal casino games that offered cash prizes. Police revealed that 94 people participated in the illegal gambling activities, 12 bettors, six bet runners, two referees and various organizers. Several individuals tried to pass themselves off to place as members of the health department; however, they could not verify their status through credentials.

Following a thorough inspection, police seized firearms and various narcotics. They also confiscated large quantities of food which lacked all kinds of health control.

The intervening agents arrested 24 people, all allegedly organizers of the event. The president of the athletic club, Diego Martín Elías, said that the penalty shootout tournament is an event that occurs on a regular basis. He added that it involves neighborhood soccer teams from the Federal Capital and the Buenos Aires suburbs, with venues on a rotating basis. Martín was not one of the suspects police arrested.

Elías added that after this episode they will consider not holding these events. However, he admitted that it was welcome extra income and that the club receives of ARS450,000 (US$3,887) for the rental of the property.

Ending a Popular Pastime

These tournaments are very popular in local neighborhoods of the west and south of Greater Buenos Aires, according to local media. However, they have become one of the most sought-after practices in recent years.

The mechanics of the penalty shootout consist of a kicker and a goalkeeper, where usually each represents a team. Bettors are able to wager on whether a kicker will score a goal, if a goalkeeper will block a shot, which side of the goal the kicker will target and more.

For some, the shootouts are a way of life. A handful of kickers and goalkeepers make a living from participating in the events.

However, the presence of firearms and illegal drugs shows the precarious nature of the activity. They also show the dangers the events hold for attendees. In addition, as unregulated gaming activity, there are no safeguards for gamblers and bettors.

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