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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
HK arrests 'insect gamblers'
By Chris Hogg
BBC correspondent in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, 115 people have been arrested following a police investigation into alleged betting on insect fights.

A police spokesman said the Far East Friends of Crickets Social Club was raided following a surveillance operation by undercover officers.

Cricket fighting is legal in Hong Kong, but gambling on the result is not.

Police say five of those arrested were believed to have connections with organised crime gangs known as triads.

Cash prize

The event was billed as the Guangdong Hong Kong and Macau Fight of Champions. In reality it was just a series of fights between crickets in a backstreet social club.

But police suspected the battling insects, or rather their owners, were playing for high stakes.

They raided the premises and arrested the players, as well as confiscating more than $1,000 in cash, the crickets and what they described as gambling paraphernalia.

The club claimed it was conducting a legitimate business.

Cricket fights, which were a popular pastime in the 1950s and 60s, are quite rare in modern Hong Kong.

For one thing, the widespread use of pesticides has reduced the availability of suitable fighters.

It is reported that a champion cricket can cost more than $2,500.

Those who trade them hunt out the fiercest insects and devote many hours to training them.



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