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While the FIFA World Cup was in progress, a group of illegal Asian bookmakers were setting up shop in Macau, the gambling capital of China. In a sudden turn of events, the group was shut down by the local police who carried out raids on two alleged bookmaking syndicates within the same day.

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The Arrests

According to a representative of the Macau Judiciary Police, the first raid took place in a local hotel where suspects were conducting their illegal activities. The group is believed to have been involved with illegally taking US$645 million in World Cup bets, while occupying three hotel rooms, using the both the Internet and cell phones. There were a total of 22 arrests plus the confiscation of cells phones, computers and US$248,000 in cash. The two suspected leaders of the syndicate were amongst those arrested. In a second raid carried out later in the day at the same location, officials arrested four more individuals for allegedly accepting over US$645,000 in World Cup bets over a single day of matches. Of the 24 arrested, all suspects were reportedly from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Mainland China.

Recent Illegal Gambling Crackdown in China

As Macau’s legal gambling operations continue to grow, the illegal gambling markets around Hong Kong and China are doing all they can to keep pace amidst a crackdown by law enforcement officials. Based on information provided by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, more than US$64.5 billion is illegal sports bets were taken last year from customers located all over the world. This number is believed to be as high as four times the amount taken in legal bets taken by operations licensed by the Jockey Club. In recent weeks, multiple arrests have been made in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Betting slips for millions of US dollars were confiscated during these raids.

The problems with illegal bookmaking syndicated in this region are nothing new. Recent estimates show that over fifty percent of the world’s illegal sports betting takes place with operations in Asia, according to the International Center for Sport Security and Paris Sorbonne University.

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