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The government of Turkey has started a nationwide illegal online gambling crackdown, even as its search for a new technology partner for the functioning of state-run sports betting is on.

The Cybercrime Division Branch of the Istanbul Security Directorate conducted simultaneous raids across 40 provinces. As many as 5000 police officers were involved in the raids, which resulted in the arrest of 394 individuals. The police arrested 207 persons from Istanbul alone.

The raids were conducted after it was found that a number of companies that ostensibly doing other businesses such as cosmetics, food and travel were actually involved in illegal gambling operations. It was also found that these companies conducted wagers worth TRY3.5b (US$671m) through a total of 4,345 local bank accounts. The raids have so far resulted in the seizure of TRL42m, $94k and €133k.

The nabbed persons could receive stiff fines and likely prison sentences, as Turkey has stringent anti-gambling laws. According to the Turkish law, gambling outside the state-run SportToto (sports betting) and Milli Piyango (lottery) operations are prohibited. But it is estimated that Turkish gamblers continue to wager around $11.4b each year via unauthorised channels.