Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT
Police stake out illicit gambling Websites
A special police unit is being formed in the UK in response to the growing number of illegal gambling Websites on the Internet.
The move by the National Intelligence Crime Squad comes as the Emerging Crime conference in London on Monday warned that organised criminals are using the Net to set up illegal virtually reality casinos.
By next year, it is estimated that gamblers will have spent around £12bn in virtual casinos by using their credit cards to place bets.
Often there is no guarantee that online games such as roulette and black jack are being played fairly on these site.
And gamblers giving their credit card details could be putting themselves at financial risk.
Criminals cash in
According to Lewis Endler, a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, there are signs that criminal organisations are cashing in on their success.
He says there is now evidence that criminals are operating illegal gambling sites which allows them to launder any proceeds.
There are now around 1,000 gambling-related Websites on the Internet and numbers are doubling annually.
Some are perfectly legal and operate from the Caribbean, but it is not possible as the user to determine which sites are "safe".
The BBC's Crime Correspondent Stephen Cape says there have been arrests in the US and it is known that organised criminals in Russia are also involved.
The UK Gaming Board says the difficulty in stamping out online organised crime arises from the fact that the Internet can cross any border.