Posted: May 2, 2022, 8:35 a.m.
Last update: May 2, 2022, 8:35 a.m.
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 gambling activity.
Last Sunday, at the Spanish Sports Athletic Club in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires, police uncovered a massive illegal gambling operation. There was an underground football “penalty kicking championship” that promised cash prizes of up to ARS 2 million (USD 17,278) and high-end vehicles.
The police arrested 24 people, while there were more than 500 spectators present. They uncovered illegal firearms, narcotics and unauthorized food sales. All of this allegedly took place while the club’s management was indifferent to what was happening.
A major bust
The police response was a joint effort involving several different agencies. It involved the Buenos Aires Public Prosecutor’s Office specializing in mass events, the Buenos Aires Attorney General’s Judicial Investigation Body, the Municipal Police’s Offenses and Public Order Division, and the government control.
In addition to illegal sports betting activity, there were illegal casino games that offered cash prizes. The police revealed that 94 people participated in the illegal gambling activities, 12 bettors, six punters, two referees and various organizers. Several individuals attempted to pass themselves off as members of the health service; however, they could not verify their status through credentials.
After a careful inspection, the police seized firearms and various narcotics. They also confiscated large quantities of food that lacked any sanitary control.
The intervening agents arrested 24 people, all allegedly organizers of the event. Athletics club president Diego Martín Elías said the penalty shootout tournament is an event that happens regularly. He added that these were neighborhood football teams from the federal capital and the suburbs of Buenos Aires, with sites taking turns. Martín was not one of the suspects arrested by the police.
Elías added that after this episode they will consider not organizing these events. However, he admitted it was a welcome extra income and the club received ARS 450,000 (US$3,887) for renting the property.
Ending a Popular Hobby
These tournaments are very popular in local neighborhoods in 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.
Penalty shootout mechanics consist of a kicker and a goalkeeper, where usually each represents a team. Punters can bet on whether a kicker will score a goal, whether a goalkeeper will block a shot, which side of the goal the kicker will target and more.
For some, shootings are a way of life. A handful of kickers and goalkeepers earn their living by participating in the events.
However, the presence of firearms and illegal drugs shows the precarious nature of the activity. They also show the dangers that the events represent for the participants. Also, as an unregulated gambling activity, there are no guarantees for players and bettors.