Taiwan police probe betting on cancer patient deaths

Taiwan's police said Tuesday they have launched an investigation into a report that gamblers are betting tens of millions of dollars on the life expectancy of terminally ill cancer patients.

The investigation comes after Taipei-based Next magazine claimed that gamblers -- including the families and doctors of cancer sufferers -- in the central city of Taichung are placing bets as high as Tw$1.0 billion ($34.5 million) on when patients will die.

The report describes a rampant new trend served by betting stations in the disguise of non-profit organisations where punters are paid three times their bets if targeted patients die between one and six months of a prediction.

"We've been looking at the media report," a Taichung police officer told AFP, declining to provide details.

Punters are allowed to visit cancer patients before placing their bets, which start at a minimum of Tw$2,000, losing to the bookies if their selected patients die within a month, according to the magazine.

The expose identifies one road with more than 10 betting shops which is now known as "death gambling street". "These offices are the betting stations even though they can hardly be judged from their outlook," it said.

A member of staff at one of the suspected organisations denied that it was a front for a betting station and said the magazine's report was exaggerated when contacted by local China Television Company.

He claimed that the group helped poor families to pay for funerals which they are otherwise unable to afford.

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