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Casino gamble fails to pay off

MORE than 70 gamblers were seized by police in Shanghai after a group of out-of-towners was found setting up casinos in city hotels. Seven people were arrested for organizing gambling which involved more than 100 million yuan (US$15.5 million), police said yesterday. "They acted like a normal tourist group visiting the city," said police. "Others would never know that millions of yuan would be changing hands in just one night." Police began their investigation in June after officers heard rumors of a group of rich businessmen organizing gambling in hotels in the city's Baoshan District. Officers noticed a large number of luxury vehicles showing up at a four-star hotel in the district and found that a middle-aged man from neighboring Zhejiang Province had booked 70 rooms on two floors of the hotel. Police checks showed some of the vehicle owners had criminal records for gambling in Zhejiang. The hotel's "guests" had asked that no one enter the rooms except for cleaning, and guards were posted in corridors to turn away strangers, police said. The group would change hotels every three to five days, police said, and police decided to take action when there were signs the gamblers were on the move again. At 11pm on June 16, more than 60 police officers and investigators entered a bar area on a floor where police believed a casino had been set up. No one was there, but fresh fruit and gambling chips were found. Police then broke into the rooms and seized most of the gamblers there. The man believed to be the organizer, surnamed Zou, was found hiding in a toilet, police said. Money was transferred through an online banking service, officers said, with gamblers putting money into Zou's account before getting their chips. Zou, who used to organize gambling in Zhejiang, told police that he was using Shanghai hotels after the Zhejiang police "strengthened the crackdowns." Zou would take care of travel, hotel and meal expenses, police said, and would be paid commission by gamblers who won. When the suspects were cau! ght, the y had just finished one gambling session, police said. The hotels have been referred to local prosecutors, police said, because they had failed to register the guests who had records for gambling. "Otherwise, they could have been detected sooner," police said. "I really did not care about the money," one gambler, a businessman who owns 30 million yuan of property in Zhejiang's Wenzhou City, told police. "We came here just for relaxation and fun." He said he and his wife had lost around 600,000 yuan in five sessions. "Now I might end up in jail," he added. Police did not reveal the names of the hotels involved.

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