Macau’s police services have seen a double-digit percentage increase in recorded allegations of gaming-related crimes during the first nine months of this year, according to data released on Monday. Enhanced police enforcement activity and detection rates were key factors in the reporting increase, said Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured in file photo), in a briefing on the latest available data.
The Macau authorities label cases as gaming-related when they take place inside a casino or in its surroundings.
The briefing outlined that the Judiciary Police and the Public Security Police recorded an aggregate of 1,599 gaming-related crime cases during the January to September period. That was a 19.5-percent rise – or 261 more cases – compared to the same period last year.
Types of infraction labelled by the authorities as “scams” accounted for 291 of the 1,599 cases recorded citywide in the nine months to September 30, which represented a 66.3 percent year-on-year increase said the government.
“Scams” mostly involved “illicit money exchange” activities perpetrated on individual consumers, with suspects using either “counterfeit currencies or faking money transfer, or faking remittance proof for scamming purposes,” Secretary Wong told local media.
Another type of scam targeted casino operators. It typically involved suspects working in groups and the use either of “fraudulent casino chips”, or suspects “colluding with [casino] dealers to dispatch more chips,” than the suspects were entitled to for the money they had wagered, in order to “cheat,” the house, Mr Wong added.
The Macau police had stepped up patrols either in local casinos or the areas around them, in order to combat gaming-related scams, and to curb illicit money exchange activities, the security chief said.
He added the police forces had been “working closely” with the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, ensuring the latter was updated regularly on the identities of people allegedly engaged in illicit money exchange business. In such cases the police would make recommendations that the gaming bureau ban such people from the city’s gaming venues, Mr Wong noted.
Money scams, loan-sharking, detentions
Earlier this month it emerged that Macau officials had met casino-sector representatives to discuss topics including ways the industry might give further help in tackling the problem of unlicensed money changers seeking to operate illegally in or around the city’s casinos.
In calendar year 2018 a total of 3,050 people from outside Macau had been apprehended by the Macau police in 2018 for alleged involvement in illicit money exchange activities.
During the first nine months of this year, there were 471 cases of alleged gaming-related loan-sharking – also known as usury. That was a 20.8 percent increase year-on-year. The police forces had also recorded in the period an aggregate of 274 cases of alleged unlawful detention relating to usury, representing a 25.7 percent year-on-year increase.
A majority of the victims – and of suspects – in gaming-related usury and unlawful detention cases was non-local people, Mr Wong said. The “hidden” nature of these two types of crime posed a challenge to police investigation, the security chief noted.
“In order to ensure the successful hosting of the several celebrations and large-scale events in the city and maintain its order, the police forces have reinforced their efforts to fight serious crimes, such as unlawful detentions and usury,” Mr Wong stated.
“We made 2,317 patrols [at gaming venues] during the January to September period this year,” which was 1,137 more than the same period last year, he said.
“Our efforts have led to a crackdown on several criminal groups, and we believe this is a main reason for the rise in these two types of crimes [usury and unlawful detentions],” Mr Wong added.
The security chief said what he termed the development of the local gaming industry had not posed any “negative impact” on the local community. He noted nonetheless that upcoming high-profile events – including celebrations in December for the 20th anniversary of the handover of Macau from Portuguese administration to that of China – and the crowds expected for the winter holiday season – demanded vigilance be maintained.
“We should never be off our guard on the order and security risks inside casinos,” Mr Wong remarked.
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