Sun, Dec 25, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Betting on the election should be investigated

By Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽

As the presidential election draws near, it is all but certain that every kind of discrediting tactic, rumor mongering and vote buying will increase. Another certainty is that what are commonly known as “underground gambling circles” will not miss out on the action.

We can expect gambling to become more rampant as we get closer to election day.

As the stakes increase, it will be difficult to gauge the effect of these activities on the election. This is something prosecutors and police have to be much more vigilant about if they are to combat these activities effectively.

It is hard both to estimate and investigate the amount of money floating around in gambling circles every time an election is held in Taiwan. However, we can safely assume that massive amounts of money are involved in a nationwide poll like the upcoming presidential election, and that figures anywhere from NT$1 billion (US$33 million) to more than NT$10 billion could be involved.

These huge amounts show that many people are involved in election-related gambling. The odds on candidates given by these gambling circles, then, constitute the most accurate type of opinion poll.

This is especially true since Article 52 of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法) prohibits media outlets from releasing any opinion poll information in the 10-day period before an election. As a result, underground gambling circles become both the strangest and the only form of opinion poll in the 10 days before an election.

While underground gambling circles could be seen as the most accurate type of opinion poll, those who control this information are big-time bookmakers. If things start to look bad for them moneywise, given the huge amounts involved, it is highly likely that certain individuals would try and orchestrate “incidents” to interfere with the election so as to turn things in their favor.

District prosecutors’ offices around Taiwan have started to direct police to crack down on underground gambling circles, but the effect has been rather limited.

In addition, while the amounts of money involved in gambling operations caught by police thus far might look impressive, most of these cases involve small-time bookies.

Some might say the reason prosecutors and police do not focus on big-time bookmakers is that these individuals normally try to keep a low profile, making evidence against them hard to gather.

If this really is how things are, then it is obvious that prosecutors and police are inefficient when it comes to collecting evidence and that they need to drastically increase their criminal investigation skills.

Also, if we get down to how things really are, we will see that prosecutors and police are afraid of retaliation and limit their actions because these bookmakers are either people’s representatives or people capable of controlling their local political scene.

With underground betting on the outcome of elections so rampant, and given that this has already severely influenced the upcoming election, the Special Investigation Division (SID) should cite the prescriptions of Article 63 of the Court Organization Act (法院組織法) against people trying to damage nationwide elections and start to carry out investigations into such matters.

This is where the division should now be devoting its time and resources.

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