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23 September, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 September, 2019 10:20:53 PM
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Major sporting clubs turn into gambling dens

Mubtasim Fuad, Dhaka
Major sporting clubs turn into
gambling dens
Policemen and journalists are in action after a crackdown on the undercover gambling in Victoria Sporting Club in the capital’s Motijheel area yesterday as the law enforcers raided three other illegal casinos in the wake of political leaders’ increasingly engagement in gambling or casino which sag the country’s sporting and games. Photo: Nazmul Islam

Major sporting clubs in the country, once making news by winning championships, have again hit the headlines – this time not for fame but their widespread practice of running illegal casinos. Renowned clubs that were engaged in developing the youth and taking the country’s sports forward, have got their names tainted as police unearthed gambling and casinos on their premises in the ongoing raids against such illegal activities. Many sporting clubs have transformed into dens of gambling and secret casinos where illegal money worth crores are transacted every night. While some clubs got engaged in these activities to cover their operation costs, some others did so under pressure from influential quarters, said people concerned. The law enforcers are carrying out raids at different sporting clubs in the capital and they have seized gambling machines, related items, liquor, and huge sums of money.

The gambling operations in these clubs were often run by external parties, having strong influence and political connections to run such illegal operation without interruption from law-enforcement agencies, while the clubs received a rent for each night’s operation, some club officials told The Independent. However, at a few clubs, club executives ran a joint operation of gambling in partnership with the external parties, they added. Club sources and senior players said slot machines for gambling were set up at Victoria, Wanderers, Fakirapool Youngmen’s Club, Mohammedan, Arambagh club, after there were first installed at Kalabagan Club. The daily rent for the club premises have also gone up from Tk 3,000-5,000 per night to Tk 80,000 -1,00,000. As such, this rent money for gambling operation now forms a substantial part of these clubs’ income

Shamsul Alam Anu, genaral secretary of Wari Club, the oldest club in the capital, told the news outlet that a vested quarter lured many club owners and turned these into a heaven for illegal activities.

“Money and greed made the club owners turn their holy places into illegal gambling spots. Once, these clubs were created to build good players. These institutions created opportunity for the youth to play and turn them away from illegal activities. But now, we see the complete opposite,” he lamented.

“Some political and evil minded people lured the clubs authorities by offering large sums of amount and told them to create good teams, make the club famous,” he also said.

Some clubs including the Wari Club, has refrained from engaging into such illegal activities, he said, hoping that other clubs who are running casinos and gambling would stop the practices and return to organising sporting activities as before.

A member of Arambagh Krira Sangha, told The Independent on condition of anonymity that a limited type of gambling in the form of ‘Housie’ was being played in many of these clubs for decades with the permission of the Deputy Commissioner, mainly to cover up the regular expenses of the clubs. Such gambling practice reaches its peak during the 90’s and the clubs were housed mostly in Motijheel area at that time, he said.  As the expenses in the sporting field shot up in the following decades many of the clubs couldn’t bear its own costs from donations and other income.

An evil circle penetrated the clubs at that time and they introduced the practice of renting out the club space and started games like one-ten (throwing small dart) and Russian Rummy (game of cards). They used to give up to Tk 50,000 per night to these clubs, creating a substantial source of income for these sporting institutions. Those who ran these gambling rackets also greased the palm of law enforcers, local musclemen and political leaders, he said.

However, various criminal incidents and brawl surrounding these games also took place during that time. Notable among these are two murders in Arambagh and Dilkusha sporting clubs. After a suspension of these activities during the interim government period, the clubs started renting out their spaces for gambling again after the Awami League government came to power in 2009, he said.

In the first few years, the games of One-Ten and Russian Rummy were continued. However, 7-8 years ago these clubs started erecting international standard casinos following the example of Kalabagan Krira Chakra, which pioneered this change.

Hasan Uj Jaman Bablu, the president of Sonali Oteet Club, a club of former national players in different sporting events, said “Influence by some politician and their godfathers have change the characters of the clubs and began the practice of illegal gambling on club premises for their own benefits.”

“The influential quarter considered the club as a safe place to run their illegal activities. If the drives continue, the clubs will be able to return to their original sport-centric form very soon,” Bablu, also a former footballer of the national football team, hoped.

The country’s national teams in all the sports used to draw players from these clubs since independence, he said, adding, “Now-a-days, these clubs have lost their actual character and activities and taken interests with running secondary game like casino.”

According to sources, the casino being operated at Kalabagan Krira Chakra was closed down in January this year. However, a source who frequented the place told a daily that trained men and women of international standards had been brought in from Nepal for running gambling operations at Kalabagan club.

“At first, there was a game called ‘Bakara’ in clubs, later added ‘roulette’ and a few other games. The president of the club was Nazmul Karim alias Tinku, a former director of the Bangladesh Cricket Board. He was accompanied by Jatiya Party presidium member and ward councilor Shafiqul Islam alias Sentu of Mohammadpur,” the source claimed.

“People including Yaba businessmen, police officers, businessmen and senior government officials often came to the place for gambling. After the death of Nazmul Karim, Shafiqul Islam took over the money of gambling alone and a dispute started with the political leaders and activists of the locality. Unable to solve this, the club was closed down at that time,” the source said, adding “Kalabagan Club’s income was about Tk. One crore everyday at the time of its closing.”

Shafiqul Islam Sentu could not be contacted over telephone despite several attempts by The Independent. When contacted over the police drive at the club, Director of Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited, Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan, said they welcomed the government’s initiative and drive against illegal gambling.

On Wednesday, as the RAB was conducting the raid, he showed the gambling equipment in the hall of the casino at Mohammedan club and urged the RAB members to shutdown the operation.

He added that he was forced to rent his house for some political pressure.

Talking to The Independent, Badal Roy, a member of Mohammedan Sporting Club and a former national football team captain, said various influential quarters are carrying out these illegal activities on club premises for their own gains. He demanded a thorough investigation into these to root out the evil practices from the sporting arena.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Wednesday conducted a drive at Fakirapool Young Men’s Club and Dhaka Wanderers Club, Gulistan’s Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra, Banani’s Golden’s Dhaka Bangladesh Club. Two days later, the elite force conducted drive at Kalabagan Krira Chakra. And yesterday Dhaka Metropolitan Police raided Mohammedan Sporting Club, Arambagh Krira Sangha, Dilkusha Sporting Club and Victoria Sporting Club.

During the all these drives, the law enforcers discovered gambling machines and instruments, liquor and arrested a number of people including Juba League leader Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan on charge of running illegal casino.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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