Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured), noted to local media on Tuesday that the government hoped in the first half of 2018 to launch a “large-scale, joint contingency drill” involving local casinos and their surroundings.
“The main focus [of the drill] is how the casinos can assist the police in evacuating people from the sites, as well as the related law enforcement work. And this is also to test how the government can cope with emergency incidents speedily,” said Mr Wong in comments to reporters on the sidelines of a crime statistics briefing.
An official later clarified to GGRAsia that the scope of the drill procedure, and how many venues might be involved, was still to be determined.
A joint press statement issued on October 16 by the Judiciary Police and the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, said they had met representatives from the six casino operators to learn what measures the firms were taking in light of a “gunman attack and arson” in the Philippines in June and the shootings on the Las Vegas Strip in the U.S. in early October.
The Macau authorities’ October 16 statement noted the city’s six casino operators had agreed to work with the city’s Judiciary Police regarding how to tackle simulated “attack” on the city’s gaming sector.
“In this drill, we’ll see the participation of the Judiciary Police, Public Security Police and the Police Tactical Intervention Unit,” Mr Wong noted to the media on Tuesday, referring latterly to a local and specialist law enforcement unit. “The Fire Services Bureau, and possibly the Health Bureau and Social Affairs Bureau, will also take part in the drill,” Mr Wong further stated.
The Macau authorities’ October 16 notice had said each of the city’s casino operators had been asked to set up a “special action team”, with access to “protective equipment” and that such teams would act as first responders to any incident before the arrival of the city’s public security services.
In his comments to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Wong clarified that each casino licensee’s “special action team” would not be authorised to carry firearms.
Mr Wong said, in response to a GGRAsia question on the topic: “Of course, the phrase ‘special action team’ makes it sound like it [the team] has certain law enforcement power. But according to Macau law, the security personnel of casinos and the management staff do not have the law enforcement power that the police have.”
“So when you ask whether this team can carry guns, for instance, this is a matter that is still too early to say… but in future, when there are any new dynamics to the issue, we’ll announce [updates] to the public,” the Secretary added.
During the Tuesday briefing, the city’s police services also gave an update on the number of gaming-related incidents officially recorded in the third quarter and in the first nine months of this year.
For the January to September period, the Judiciary Police – the service tasked with criminal investigation in casinos – recorded a total of 339 incidences of suspected unlawful detention thought to be linked to loan-sharking operations targeting casino gamblers. That was a 2.9 percent year-on-year decrease, according to the police figures.
There were 318 reports of suspected loan-sharking targeting gamblers in the first nine months this year, down 8.6 percent from the 348 recorded in the prior-year period.
During the first nine months of this year, the Judiciary Police opened a total of 1,323 gaming-related crime cases – a number inclusive of launched investigations and reports made to the force. The tally represented a 1.9-percent year-on-year rise.
In the third quarter only, there were 133 reports of usury – a year-on-year rise of 15.7 percent on the 115 recorded in the prior-year quarter. In the three months to September 30 there were 108 reports of gaming-related unlawful detention, down 18.8 percent from the 133 incidences recorded in the prior-year reporting time.
“Most of these two [categories of] crimes took place inside casinos, and there is no sign that these crimes have spread outside casinos,” said Mr Wong during the briefing.
The Secretary also noted that the police services had not so far this year received any intelligence of what he termed “irregularities” in the city’s casinos that could somehow be linked to activity by “triads” – understood to be a reference to Chinese organised crime groups.
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”We have not had discussions about the concession renewal with the [Macau] government. We have taken the view that if we continue to deliver on what we expect is the expectations from operators, then we will be treated fairly”
Chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts, the parent of Macau casino operator MGM China