Doha: At least two gangs are running gambling rackets in Qatar, attracting gamblers from other Gulf countries, a local paper said on Sunday.

The two gangs have been running the racket for the past eight years, said English daily Gulf Times, whose journalists posed as gamblers and managed to meet a member of one of the gangs.

Gambling is prohibited in Islam and casinos are banned in Qatar and other Gulf countries.

The paper said that the two gangs were originally part of a single organisation that later split into two rival groups.

"The card games are played almost every day but they start only after midnight," said the paper quoting a source. "On weekdays the game goes on till about 3am, while on weekends it continues till the next evening".

According to the daily, the gangs operate from empty houses across the city and change their hideouts very often.

The card games are also hosted in houses when their unaware owners are out of the country. In these cases, the caretakers are paid some 250 Qatari riyals (about Dh252).

The source told the journalists that the gangs contact their gamblers through text messages only half an hour before the game to inform them about the location. The gang pockets 10 per cent of the gamblers' winnings.

"Whatever the game, the minimum amount to make a move is 200 riyals. ... As much as 50,000 riyals change hands on the weekends, when there are between 20 and 25 people playing," the paper reported.

According to the source, Gulf nationals and expatriates, ranging from private sector employees to taxi drivers and labourers are involved as players.

"Some of these players are 'rounders', people who make their living out of gambling. One such person is an Omani, who flies down to Qatar at least thrice a month just to gamble".

The source said gang members were never caught because they change their hideouts regularly and admittance to the circle of their habitual players is very difficult.

Officials at the Ministry of Interior were not immediately available to comment on the issue.