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Three cups – a trap for tourists. Scammers operate all over Poland

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Three cups, one ball. If you guess which cup it is under, you win money. Theoretically, because in this game there is only one winner. And it is not the player, but always cheaters. They are well organized and have no scruples. They can earn from several hundred to even several thousand zlotys in an hour. They are in the Bieszczady Mountains, in Zakopane and by the sea. “Business” is booming, because – despite numerous appeals from the police – there is no shortage of people willing to play.

The police from Lesko in Podkarpacie have been struggling with the problem for several years. People offering tourists a game of three cups usually appear in the Bieszczady Mountains during the long May weekend. Later, when the tourist season in this region of Poland is in full swing, they come almost every weekend, even on weekdays during holidays.

You can meet them in various Bieszczady tourist towns, but most often in Solina. Specifically, on the promenade leading to the dam, right at the foot of the gondola station – in the vicinity of the two largest tourist attractions in the region.

– The group consists of several people. Each of them has a specific role in it – tells tvn24.pl staff assistant Katarzyna Fechner, press officer of the Poviat Police Headquarters in Lesko.

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The so-called mixers are people who operate the cups. Players who win money are substituted. By vividly commenting on the win, they are to attract the attention of passers-by and encourage them to play.

There are also substituted people in the crowd. Their task is also to encourage as many onlookers as possible to play.

The so-called detectors stand on watch – they are to inform the rest of the team about the approaching policemen and watch the crowd and make sure that no one takes pictures of the players and does not record the course of the game.

– These people have been coming to Solina for years. They have great knowledge of the terrain. They know where the surveillance does not reach and they set up there. Warned by the detectors about the approaching police officers, they immediately disperse, take cardboard, cups and go in different directions. In the summer in Solina there is a crowd of tourists, so they immediately get lost in it – says Fechner.

Read too She lost money in “three cups”. “Catch the thief!”

Fraudsters – as the police emphasize – work in a group, everyone has a specific role in itKPP in Lesko

This year, the first report about fraudsters offering the game of three cups was received by the Lesko police on April 24, another on May 1.

Reports are made not only by residents and tourists, but also by e.g. employees of booths located along the promenade leading to the dam in Solina.

– Most often, these are anonymous reports via the emergency number 112 or the National Map of Security Threats – says the policewoman and shows an interactive map on which anonymous people informed about a “dangerous place of entertainment activity”, specifying that it is a game of three cups.

– Places where players have been seen by the reporters are highlighted in red. We have confirmed both of these reports – informs the policewoman, pointing to two red points on the map.

And he adds: – People write or call anonymously because they are afraid of revenge from the gang.

See the report “Notes!” TVN: Zakopane loses in three cups >>>

Information about fraudsters can be reported via the National Security Threat Map KPP in Lesko

A mother with her children came to the policemen and lost 1,400 zlotys in three cups

There are also cases when deceived people report to the Lesko command. – I especially remember a woman who came with small children. She complained that she had lost all her money in a game of three cups and had no money to pay for the night. She was a tourist who came here with her children to rest. She lost about PLN 1,400 – says Fechner.

Unfortunately, sometimes people lose their minds. They count on easy money, but it’s impossible to win against scammers. In this game, there is only one winner and it is not the player, but the scammers.

He explains that the organizers of the procedure run the game so that the money is always in their hands. Even when they “encourage” players to win small amounts, the banknotes never go to the winnings.

Police: It’s impossible to win against a cheaterShutterstock

From Nowy Sącz on “guest performances” in the Bieszczady Mountains

As the uniformed officer emphasizes, the members of the gang are well known to the local police. – These are people from Nowy Sącz known also there, at our so-called “guest performances” – he says.

The leader of the group is to be a 65-year-old resident of Nowy Sącz. Last year he was stopped by the Lesko police in Solina while playing three cups. He refused to accept the fine, and the police sent a request to the court to punish him.

– During the questioning, he directly said that he has been playing since the 1970s and will continue to play because this is his way of life – reports Fechner.

The group, according to the policewoman, also includes the man’s wife, who pretends to be a player, and his son. – When he was detained by us and fined, he said that he is not a fraud, but an artist, and what he does is art, and he devoted a lot of time to learn it – reports the uniformed officer.

And he adds: – These people have no scruples and no remorse. They take as much money from people as possible.

The police punish with fines, fraudsters make up for their losses in a few dozen minutes

The police are trying to fight the practice, but – as the press officer of the Lesko police points out – it is not easy, because the fraudsters are well organized. They are also not impressed by fines, which they are able to make up in several dozen minutes.

“Whoever arranges a gambling game or lends funds or premises for it, shall be subject to the penalty of arrest, restriction of liberty or a fine.”

– We will try to cooperate with the Tax Administration Chamber in Rzeszów so that in our province the game of three cups is treated as a gambling game and then we will be able to treat organizing the game not as a misdemeanor, but a crime, which is punishable by up to three years in prison – explains Katarzyna Fechner.

Anyone who, contrary to the provisions of the Act or the terms of a license or permit, organizes or conducts gambling games, shall be liable to a fine of up to 720 daily rates or to imprisonment for up to 3 years, or to both penalties jointly.

– Police officers in other units in the country, which are struggling with the same problem, are punishing the organizers of the three-cup game from this article – points out Fechner. And he adds: – When the punishment is more severe, the cheater will think twice before joining the game.

Such an application was submitted by the Lesko police to the Tax Administration Chamber in Rzeszów last year, but, according to the uniformed officer, it was not accepted.

Deputy Commissioner Edyta Chabowska, spokeswoman for the Tax Administration Chamber in Rzeszów, when asked about the application, replied: “As part of the cooperation carried out by the Podkarpackie National Revenue Administration and the Police, the Tax Administration Chamber in Rzeszów informed the Poviat Police Headquarters in Lesko about the criteria according to which the game can It was also indicated that each case of such a game should be considered individually, (informed – ed.) Also about the possibility of applying to the Minister of Finance, who decides, inter alia, on request, whether a given game is a game of chance”.

She clarified that the Lesko police received this information at the beginning of November 2022.

Not only cheaters break the law, but also players

Importantly, according to the regulations, the offense is committed not only by cheaters, but also by players, and according to the Code of Misdemeanors they are subject to the same penalties as the organizers of the practice.

And this one will last as long as there are people willing to play. That is why the Lesko police appeal to residents and tourists not to get involved in it. – We print leaflets with warnings that we distribute to tourists. We leave them in shops, boarding houses, hotels, we hang posters with information. District officers raise the topic of fraud during meetings with residents. We do what we can, but nothing can replace common sense, which I would like to appeal to residents and tourists for – emphasizes Fechner.

From the sea to the Tatra Mountains

But the problem with the organizers of the game for three cups is not only the police of Lesko. The same problem is in other tourist destinations – Mrągowo, Międzyzdroje, Kołobrzeg or Kamień Pomorski. Through posters, messages posted on police websites and in social media, uniformed officers appeal to residents and tourists not to be persuaded to play three cups.

On the other hand – as the staff assistant Roman Wieczorek, spokesman of the Poviat Police Headquarters in Zakopane informs us – only this year the Zakopane police have already recorded 24 interventions regarding the practice of playing “three cups”. Last year, there were 97 such interventions.

– This year, we brought five cases to the court regarding committing a misdemeanor, ie organizing a game of three cups, and last year there were 15 such cases – enumerates the uniformed officer.

He adds: – The groups, because there are several of them, are identified by Tatra policemen. On the basis of notifications from the aggrieved persons, the persons organizing the game are identified, and then applications for punishment to the court in cases of misdemeanors are sent to them.

During the holidays, police foot patrols are sent to the places where the game of three cups is organized. In addition, in the PKL queue for Gubałówka, messages are given not to play the game. Warnings are also posted on the police website in Zakopane.

The police in Zakopane warn against playing three cupsKPP Zakopane

Police: Fraudsters have no holidays

The tourist season is underway, and the scammers – as the police emphasize – do not have holidays. Uniforms appeal to residents and tourists to be reasonable, not to play three cups, and in the event of a loss, to report such incidents to the nearest police unit.

Lake Solina is one of the largest and most popular tourist attractions in the Bieszczady MountainsLukasz Gornicki

Author:Martyna Sokolowska

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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