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Macau Customs Officer Among 93 Charged in Illegal Sports Gambling Scheme

A Macau customs officer is among 93 individuals charged for their alleged involvement in an illegal sports gambling business that expanded to Hong Kong and the Guangdong Province. Recently, officers with the Macau Judiciary Police arrested 50 individuals suspected of participating in an illegal underground bookmaking operation, which purportedly accepted at least $134 million in sports bets since 2016.

Macau Customs Officer Among 93 Charged in Illegal Sports Gambling Scheme

The Macau Judiciary Police disclosed that the arrests include 50 suspects residing in Macau, 42 on the Chinese Mainland, and one individual in Hong Kong. They have been charged with operating an underground bookmaking network, with law enforcement estimating the operation collected MOP1.08 billion (US$134 million) in bets since 2016.

The investigation originated from a 2022 money laundering probe, which uncovered evidence of an illicit sports betting ring. According to a police release, four leaders of the syndicate are already imprisoned for their roles in the money laundering case but have continued to manage the sportsbook scheme from behind bars.

Government officials detailed that the illegal bookmaking business utilized online websites hosted on overseas servers. Additionally, bets were accepted in person around major casino resorts in downtown Macau and the Cotai Strip. Bettors in Hong Kong and the mainland allegedly placed wagers through intermediaries.

Macau law enforcement believes the underground sports betting ring primarily concentrated on soccer. During the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany, police estimated the syndicate was accepting more than $9 million in bets weekly.

Judiciary representatives reported that the sting operation led to the seizure of approximately $11 million in cash and the freezing of "more than 90 bank accounts" linked to the operation. Additionally, over 100 cell phones, 26 computers and tablets, and $994,000 were confiscated from various residential units throughout Macau, where the suspects allegedly lived and worked.

Cyprus Gaming License

The individuals arrested are said to have held various roles within the operation, from recruiting bettors and accepting bets to pursuing players who failed to pay up. As one of the accused is a customs official, the Macau SAR government’s Customs agency has initiated an internal review, suspending the officer during the investigation.

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

Asian gamblers tend to prefer table games, particularly baccarat, over slot machines and sports, unlike U.S. players. While sports betting has become significant in the U.S., it remains a minor component of the Chinese gaming industry, which restricts casinos to Macau but permits sports wagering on the mainland through the national lottery.

Macau’s Judiciary Police stated that the discovery of the illegal bookmaking operation was due to cooperation with law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong and Guangdong. The penalties for operating an illegal gambling business in China are severe, with increased penalties for cross-border gambling facilitation.

Former Suncity boss Alvin Chau was sentenced to 18 years in prison last year after being found guilty of 163 charges, including fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association. Chau was the prominent figure of the Macau junket industry, which organized lavish trips for wealthy mainlanders to Macau, encouraging substantial gambling.



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