Macau busts $645 million World Cup betting ring
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 0726 GMT (1526 HKT)
Macau's legal gambling revenue dwarfs that of Las Vegas, but illicit betting rackets continue to thrive.
- Police bust international betting rings operating from Macau hotel
- More than US$600 million in illegal bets placed on World Cup games
- Arrests are part of campaign to crack down on illicit bookmakers in Asia during World Cup
(CNN) -- Police have smashed an illegal betting syndicate in Macau for allegedly taking the equivalent of US$645 million in bets on World Cup matches.
It's believed to be the biggest ever raid on an illicit football bookmaking racket in the Asian casino capital, according to police.
The gambling ring used three hotel rooms to take internet and phone bets from around the world, a first coordinator for the Macau Judiciary Police told CNN. One gambler placed a bet valued at around US$5 million, initial investigations found.
Police arrested some 22 people from mainland China, Hong Kong and Malaysia in the raid on Thursday. Two of the suspects, from China and Malaysia, were believed to be the ringleaders of the syndicate.
Officers seized cash worth around US$248,000, along with 17 computers, at least 10 cell phones, and betting slips.
A second gambling syndicate was busted in the same hotel hours later, with police arresting four Chinese men early Friday morning. According to police, the second betting ring took around US$645,000 in illegal bets on World Cup matches in a single day.
Police have not released the name of the hotel.
READ: The dark side of Asia's gambling Mecca
The arrests are part of a cross-border campaign to crack down on illegal betting in Macau, Hong Kong and China's southern Guangdong province around the World Cup. Authorities from the Pearl River Delta region are also cooperating with Interpol and seven other Asian nations to tackle illicit gambling.
More than half of the world's illegal sports bets are placed in Asia, according to a recent study by the International Center for Sport Security and Paris Sorbonne University.
Since the tournament began, Hong Kong police have arrested a total of 39 suspects over illegal gambling and seized betting slips worth around US$10 million, according to the South China Morning Post.
The city's legal gambling authority, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, is the second biggest betting operator worldwide. The club said illicit sports betting in Hong Kong generated an estimated HK$500 billion (US$64.5 billion) last year -- almost four times the amount the Jockey Club turned over in the same period.
In Singapore, 15 people have been arrested for allegedly receiving illegal football bets equivalent to US$640,000 in the past two weeks, police said Monday.
Police in Malaysia have also arrested dozens of suspected illegal bookmakers since the World Cup began.
WATCH: Interpol investigates World Cup betting
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.