Chinese social media application WeChat has again allegedly been used illicitly in order to link outside punters to actual casino games inside a licensed Macau casino, said the city’s authorities.
Macau’s Judiciary Police on Thursday arrested 13 mainland Chinese men and four male Macau residents for alleged criminal association and operation of illegal gaming. It was said the suspects had been filming – in “real time” – VIP baccarat games in a Cotai casino and then broadcasting them via WeChat to a network of gamblers outside casino premises.
In April the Judiciary Police had arrested seven mainland Chinese men over their alleged involvement in what the police termed illegal betting, worth US$1.3 million, by gamblers from China communicating with the suspects via WeChat.
In a press briefing on Friday regarding the latest alleged incident, Judiciary Police spokesperson Choi Ian Fai said the suspects “gathered gamblers from mainland China via the use of the mobile phone application [WeChat]… their selling point being that the gamblers could play real baccarat games in Macau”.
The wagers were allegedly on real VIP baccarat games “in a Cotai casino”, said Mr Choi. He did not disclose the name of the venue.
The suspects gathered “two to three” WeChat groups of Chinese gamblers on a daily basis, with each group consisting of about “40 to 50” members, stated Mr Choi.
Some of the suspects were responsible for collecting wagers, some for calculating player payouts; and others were allegedly sent to play VIP baccarat games in the casino in question, on behalf of the mainland Chinese gamblers gathered via the WeChat groups.
Mr Choi said the arrest of the 17 suspects stemmed from a tip-off in May to the Judiciary Police – the body responsible for crime prevention and crime investigation in Macau’s casinos – from the city’s Public Security Police. The tip concerned suspicions about alleged illegal gambling in a flat in the ZAPE district of Macau peninsula. An operation was conducted, and laptop computers and mobile phones were seized, with devices allegedly containing records of betting, Mr Choi said.
The police said it “found seven of the [alleged] accomplices in a VIP gambling room in a casino in Cotai”. Mr Choi said that “among these seven people, four were Macau residents”.
“These seven people were in charge of gambling and watching over the records of betting: when one person was gambling at the table, accomplices [sitting] behind them would follow the instructions from their ringleaders or other accomplices [outside the casino] and tell them how much should be placed on ‘banker’ and ‘player’ [bets],” he added. The spokesperson also noted that the alleged gang took photographs and filmed live video – via mobile phone – of the games and broadcast it to the gamblers in the WeChat groups.
The Judiciary Police indicated the alleged ring did not run a 24-hour operation. The WeChat groups were closed each time a gambling session had been completed, stated Mr Choi. But he added it was suspected the operation had been run over the course of approximately a year.
The total wagers collected for the operation reportedly exceeded HKD10 million (US$1.28 million), the police concluded, with the suspects earning their money via commission, Mr Choi told media.
The police said that some players placed their wagers via the mainland Chinese payment system Alipay.
Mr Choi said at Friday’s press conference that the Judiciary Police were still investigating how the suspects were allegedly able to conduct their operation via a casino VIP room. The police believed one suspect was still at large, he added.
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”According to Macau law, the security personnel of casinos and the management staff do not have the law enforcement power that the police have”
Wong Sio Chak
Macau’s Secretary for Security