Macau Officer Among 93 People Charged in Betting Scheme

Posted on: July 1, 2024, 03:50h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2024, 03:50h.

A Macau customs officer is among 93 people who have been charged for their alleged participation in an illegal sports gambling business that spread to Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province.

Macau police sports betting ring
Officers with the Macau Judiciary Police recently arrested 50 people allegedly involved in an illegal underground bookmaking business. The rogue enterprise is alleged to have accepted at least $134 million in sports bets since 2016. (Image: Macau Judiciary Police)

Macau’s Judiciary Police revealed that 50 suspects residing in Macau, 42 on the Chinese Mainland, and a man in Hong Kong were arrested and charged with running an underground bookmaking network. Law enforcement believes the operation took in at least MOP1.08 billion (US$134 million) in bets since 2016.

A police release explained that the investigation began after a 2022 money laundering probe discovered evidence of an associated illicit sports betting ring. Four of the syndicate’s leaders are reportedly already incarcerated for their roles in the money laundering case but have continued to oversee the sportsbook scheme from prison.

Government officials say the bookmaking business involved online websites set up on computer servers based overseas. Bets were also accepted in person in and around major casino resorts located in downtown Macau and the Cotai Strip. Bettors in Hong Kong and on the mainland also allegedly met with footmen to place wagers.

Soccer Ring

Macau law enforcement investigators believe the underground sports betting ring primarily focused on soccer. During the Euro 2024 tournament that is currently being played in Germany, police estimate the syndicate was accepting more than $9 million a week in bets.

Judiciary reps say the sting resulted in the seizing of approximately $11 million in cash and “more than 90 bank accounts” alleged to be associated with the operation being frozen. More than 100 cell phones, 26 computers and tablets, and $994,000 were seized from various residential units throughout Macau where the perpetrators allegedly lived and worked.

The people apprehended allegedly worked in an array of jobs, from recruiting bettors and taking their bets to tracking down players who hadn’t paid up. Since one of the charged worked as a customs official, the Customs of Macau SAR government agency has initiated an internal review of the officer. He has been suspended as the review plays out.

The bookmaking business is said to have specialized in soccer matches and lured in bettors by offering better odds than Macau Slot, the leading online and retail bookmaker in Macau. Macau Slot offers bets on soccer and basketball, two of the most popular sports in China and Macau.

Asian gamblers prefer to gamble on table games, specifically baccarat, more than U.S. players do with slot machines and sports. While sports betting has become big business in the U.S., it remains a relatively small piece of the Chinese gaming industry, which limits casinos to Macau but allows sports wagering on the mainland through the national lottery.

Cross-Border Collaboration

Macau’s Judiciary Police says the illegal bookmaking operation that was uncovered was the result of cooperation with law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong and Guangdong. The penalties for running an illegal gambling operation in China are severe, with penalties heightened for facilitating cross-border gambling.

Former Suncity boss Alvin Chau last year was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty on 163 charges of fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association. Chau was the face of the Macau junket industry, the travel organizers that actively targeted wealthy mainlanders with lavish trips to Macau where they were encouraged to gamble hefty amounts.

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