LAHORE - With the sunset every day, dozens of people riding in latest model cars reach a bungalow located on a busy road in Lahore’s Green Town neighbourhood to bet on playing cards. The ‘players’ continue visiting the casino-like facility where drugs, liquor, and other ‘items’ are served on demand till late night.

A police squad frequently patrols the street in the residential area as gamblers enter and leave the venue without any fear and hesitation.

“Don’t worry about them. The police will never raid this house. They are paid tens of thousands of rupees for each night. We are doing this (business) together,” one of the patrons of the Green Town den told this reporter as a private guard opened the main gate. The customers are given entry after verification while our regular clients are not checked at the main entrance, the patron commented.

Inside the double-story building, at least five men equipped with automatic guns were on guard. More than 100 people were seen busy gambling in different rooms of the newly-built house. Most of them were betting on the playing cards.

The regular visitors appeared to be real estate agents, traders, drug dealers, and government officials working in the corruption-riddled departments. Some good-looking female are also regular visitors of the gambling den.

Like the facility in the Green Town, over one hundred gambling dens are actively operating in the provincial metropolis in connivance with the local policemen. Some lower subordinates of the law enforcement agency are themselves running gambling dens in the densely populated areas.

According to the investigations conducted by The Nation, most of the gambling dens are operating in the posh areas of the metropolis including Model Town, Faisal Town, Ghalib Market, Defense A, Defense-B, Gulberg, Sabzazar, Johar Town, Wapda Town, Faisal Town, Iqbal Town, and Satu Katla police areas.

A good number of dens are also being run by individuals in Gowalmandi, Mozang, Samanabad, Shadman, Nawan Kot, Mughalpura, Baghbanpura, Hanjarwal, Chuhng, Naseerabad, Kot Lakhpat, and Factory Area police precincts.

The most active and largest gambling dens are operating in the limits of Data Darbar, Islampura, Sanda, Naulakha, Qila Gujjar Singh, Shahdara Town, Race Course, and Badami Bagh police areas.

Early this month, the city police prepared the lists of dozens of active gambling dens on the directions of the capital city police officer. The names of drug dealers, gamblers, and land grabbers were also mentioned in these lists.  These special lists were sent to the concerned SPs, DSPs and SHOs. The local police were asked to intensify crackdown against the suspects involved in land grabbing, gambling, and narcotics selling in their respective areas.

More interestingly, the names and addresses of many of the active gambling dens are not included in the list prepared by the local police. Many people named in such lists have left the city since years. Again, the authorities released these “revised lists” to the station house officers, directing them to conduct raids to eliminate such gambling dens from their areas.

“The new lists (regarding the gambling dens) are merely eyewash. Many addresses and particulars of individuals noted in the list are found bogus,” a police officer said. “Everybody knows who runs gambling dens in Data Darbar, Gowalmandi, Samanabad and Iqbal Town police areas. But their names are missing in the revised lists”.

Police sources revealed that the security branch of the city police had prepared the lists after going through the previous record. “Those named in these lists had a previous history. They were booked in such cases in the past. The names of active drug-pushers, land-grabbers, and the patrons of the gambling dens and brothels are not mentioned in the new lists,” a police investigator said.

The officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that many gambling dens are being run by influential people and the low-ranking police officers “even cannot think of raiding such dens”. He said that the gambling dens are a real source of revenue generation for the police. Since the CIA police also get their share from these dens therefore, nobody prefers to raid such facilities.

A 50-year-old patron of a den, who preferred his name not be mentioned, says that the police conduct raids on gambling dens only if the patrons would not pay them. “This is a two-way business. Nobody can run a gambling den anywhere without the support of the local police. Once you will get police support then no one can touch you,” he added.

Most of the gambling dens have been operating from rented accommodations. Many individuals are also running gambling dens in hotel rooms.

Insiders say that at least 20 gambling dens and brothels are operating in the limits of two police stations– Ichra and Shadman. These dens and brothels are located in the markets and some notorious policemen are backing and patronizing these dens.

When contacted, Lahore SSP (Operations) Liaqat Ali Malik was not available for comments. A police spokesman said that the police are regularly conducting raids on gambling dens in the city. He said that at least 125 cases were registered against gamblers and 535 suspects were arrested in Lahore last month.

He said that the security sweep and search operations are also helping police unearth the gambling dens and a massive crackdown against such facilities is underway.