Bookie jailed for helping punter bet on illegal Toto

Two-week sentence and $20,000 fine for accused in first such reported case here

A bookie who helped a punter place a $30 bet for an illegal Toto public lottery was jailed two weeks and fined $20,000 in the first such reported case.

Bijabahadur Rai Shree Kantrai was found guilty of assisting in the carrying on of a public lottery under the Common Gaming Houses Act by accepting the bet from crane driver and long-time friend Jasbir Singh. The outcome of the illegal lottery was based on the numbers picked at a June 2014 Toto draw conducted by Singapore Pools.

In a legal Toto public lottery, the draw is for six numbers and an additional number. A winner of the top prize has to match all six winning numbers. At the other end, a $10 prize is awarded if three of the winning numbers are picked.

Singh had sent text messages to Rai, who accepted the bets for three sets of two numbers at $10 each. If Singh had at least two matching numbers, the payout would be $600 and if the second pair also came up, he would get $1,200 and so on.

Singh had already pleaded guilty to 15 gambling and moneylending charges, including in the present case where he was charged for betting with Rai. The men had known each other for about 15 years and met regularly in Tanjong Pagar to drink.

Police gambling expert Jonathan Lee, testifying that the case on trial was an illegal lottery, said up to 20 per cent of the more than 100 cases of gambling he has dealt with involved betting on Toto lotteries.

The charge against Rai followed a police raid on his home for suspected gambling activities, where three cellphones and more than $200,000 in cash were seized.

Rai denied being a bookie and claimed he was merely helping Singh buy the illegal Toto bet for an operation by a Johor Baru-based friend named Kenny.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng was not convinced, noting Singh had already pleaded guilty to a charge of betting with Rai in relation to the present case.

Rai never mentioned the bookie Kenny in his earlier statements to the police and Kenny was not called upon by the defence to testify.

Nor were there any text messages in Rai's phone to indicate he was forwarding Singh's bet to Kenny.

Defence counsel Wee Pan Lee argued there were no betting documents seized nor any sign of numerous transactions but only a single small bet to show that Rai had assisted in conducting a public lottery.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christine Liu countered that the low value of the bet or that the punter and offender may have been friends was not a defence to the charge of assisting in carrying on of a public lottery.

Police gambling expert Jonathan Lee, testifying that the case on trial was an illegal lottery, said up to 20 per cent of the more than 100 cases of gambling he has dealt with involved betting on Toto lotteries.

The official Toto draw is held twice a week by Singapore Pools.

The court also heard that Rai was a regular gambler who could bet up to $250,000 a week if he thought conditions were favourable, or a few thousand dollars on a normal week.

DJ Liew noted in judgment grounds released yesterday that while the value of the bet was $30 in a single transaction, there was no clear evidence to support the defence's mitigation claim that Rai did not profit from the deal.

The judge's two-week jail term and $20,000 fine took into account the small value of the bet.

Rai is appealing against the conviction and sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Bookie jailed for helping punter bet on illegal Toto'. Print Edition | Subscribe