The number of suspicious transaction reports filed by Macau gaming operators went up 9.5 percent year-on-year in 2021, according to data released on Wednesday by the city’s Financial Intelligence Office.
Such reports rose to 1,330, from 1,215 instances in 2020.
Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue grew 43.7 percent year-on-year in full-year 2021, according to data released by the city’s government on January 1. Investment analysts attributed the annual improvement to easing of travel conditions between Macau and mainland China, the only place currently to have a largely quarantine-free travel arrangement with the gaming hub.
The total number of suspicious transaction reports received by Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office across all sectors in 2021 was 2,435, up 9.5 percent on the 2,224 lodged in 2020.
A spokesperson from the Office told GGRAsia that last year’s increase in the number of suspicious transaction reports filed by gaming operators was “in line with the overall percentual increase in the total number of suspicious transaction reports received for 2021.”
The person added that the number of suspicious transaction reports submitted by the gaming sector had been “gradually recovering towards the pre Covid-19 level”, in tandem with the “gradual recovery in the overall level of gaming transactions”.
The Financial Intelligence Office representative said that “variations in the number of suspicious transaction reports submitted by the gaming sector over the years may be due to various reasons, including but not limited to increase in awareness and enhancement of internal control measures by gaming operators.”
Gaming operator-generated suspicious transaction reports for 2021, accounted for 54.6 percent of the annual total recorded by the Financial Intelligence Office, the same proportion as in 2020. Reports from financial institutions and insurance firms made up 32.6 percent, a slightly greater weighting than the 30.4 percent seen in 2020. Reports from “other institutions” accounted for 12.8 percent of the 2021 total, compared to 15.0 percent of the total in 2020.
The city’s casinos are required to report to the local government any transaction of MOP500,000 (US$62,600) or above, although that does not mean that such a transaction will be flagged as suspicious.
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"We [estimate] that these illegal [currency exchange] transactions account for somewhere between 50 percent to 60 percent [of Macau's annual gross gaming revenue]”
Managing partner at IGamiX Management and Consulting