HONG KONG, June 21 (Reuters) - Macau police have busted a bookmaking racket that allegedly took HK$5 billion ($645 million) in illegal bets - including a single HK$40 million bet - on World Cup football matches in a week, the South China Morning Post reported on Saturday.
Police have arrested 22 suspects from what they say is the biggest illicit soccer-betting ring uncovered in the gambling haven following a raid of a hotel on Thursday, the newspaper said.
The syndicate, operating out of three rooms in the hotel, took online bets and telephone orders from around the world, the report said.
Initial investigations showed that about HK$5 billion in World Cup bets had been taken and officers had found evidence of a single HK$40 million bet on one match, it cited Macau police spokesman Suen Kam-fai as saying.
Investigators seized more than HK$2 million in cash, along with 17 computers as well as more than 10 mobile phones and betting slips from the rooms, the paper said.
Authorities in Macau, the world's largest casino market, Hong Kong and the neighbouring province of Guangdong have been collaborating to crack down on illegal soccer betting in southern China since the World Cup kicked off in Brazil last week.
Hong Kong police have set up a task force with Macau and Guangdong authorities and are also working with Interpol across eight Asian countries to fight illegal betting during the World Cup, it said.
Over the past week, Hong Kong police have arrested 39 suspected illegal bookmakers and confiscated betting slips worth nearly HK$85 million, the report said. In the first four months of the year, records seized during raids on illegal bookies showed they had taken HK$54.2 million worth of bets on soccer. ($1 = 7.7515 Hong Kong Dollars) (Reporting by Charlie Zhu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)