DHAKA: Bangladesh has launched a series of police raids to crack down on illegal betting in cricket stadiums that has gripped the country's main Twenty20 competition, tournament officials said Saturday.
Some 77 people have been thrown out of two cricket grounds in the cities of Dhaka and Sylhet in the past few days after being suspected of betting during the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), a lucrative competition modelled on the Indian Premier League, officials said.
Betting is illegal in Bangladesh, but the alleged offenders -- 10 of whom were Indian nationals -- used their mobile phones to place live bets before scores were broadcast on television and online, BPL secretary Ismail Haider Mallick told reporters.
"Matches go on air four to five seconds or in some cases nine seconds after the original actions take place (on the ground). Gamblers were using the time gap to do betting," he said.
The bettors were monitored at the venues, before being caught and evicted with assistance from special branch police, Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus told AFP.
The BPL has been dogged by betting allegations since its first two editions in 2011 and 2012 were blighted by a match-fixing scandal involving players and team owners.
Top Bengali daily Prothom Alo reported last week that betting has become common in cities and remote towns during BPL matches.
Tea stalls, restaurants and auto-rickshaw garages have all become venues for fans to place their bets during the matches, the newspaper said.
A university student was allegedly murdered following an argument over a bet during a BPL match in Dhaka on November 6.
But Mallick said cricket authorities alone could not stop illegal gambling.
"We are trying to create awareness ... but we can't stop betting around the country. It entirely depends on the law-enforcing agencies," he said.
The cricket board has tried similar tactics to curb betting in the past -- at least four suspected bookmakers were thrown out of cricket stadiums in 2015 -- but that has not stopped the gamblers.
Last year the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission blocked 12 betting websites in an attempt to curb gambling during cricket matches.
Nearly 50 foreign cricketers, including Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, the West Indies' Chris Gayle, New Zealand's Brendon McCullum and England's Jos Buttler are taking part in the seven-team BPL tournament this year.