Police in Macau have shut down what they are describing as the largest unregulated sports betting operation to ever set up shop in the world’s top casino gambling hub. Police spokesperson Suen Kam-tai told Hong Kong media that the betting ring had handled HKD 5b (US $645m) in wagers on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in just the first week of the tournament, including a single wager of HKD 40m ($5.1m). Sadly, no details were provided on which team this wager was placed, nor whether it won or lost.
In raids conducted on Thursday, Macau Judiciary Police arrested 22 individuals, including four Hong Kong residents, nine from the Chinese mainland and nine from Malaysia, all of whom were paraded before the media on Friday in handcuffs and wearing black hoods over their heads. The betting ring had apparently converted three rooms of an unidentified local hotel into their operations center, from which they accepted wagers from around the globe via online and telephone. Police also seized computers, betting records and over HKD 2m ($258k) in cash.
A second betting ring was taken down in Macau on Friday, with police arresting four mainland residents and seizing HKD 500k in cash. Police said this ring handled HKD 5m in wagers before the whip came down. The only legal sports betting option in Macau remains the Macau Slot monopoly, which handled a mere $621m in wagers during all of 2013.
On the mainland, the World Cup is being very good to China’s sports lottery operators. Earlier this week, the National Sports Lottery Management Center reported that the first day of the tournament had brought in RMB 150m ($24.1m) in sales. The first four days of World Cup action have now generated sales of RMB 900m ($144.6m), leading the lottery overseers to predict total World Cup sales will exceed RMB 15b ($2.4b).