Scams and thefts dominated Macau’s gaming-related crimes tally in the first nine months of this year, but in real terms instances were down on the same period in 2019, said Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, in a Monday briefing.
The Judiciary Police probed 716 suspected gaming-related crime cases in the January to September period, 178.6 percent more than last year, but 55.2 percent fewer than the same period in 2019, Mr Wong told reporters.
He said the year-on-year rise could be accounted for by the low base in 2022, when Covid-related restrictions were still constraining tourism business in Macau.
As the city’s gaming sector recovered, a rise in related criminal activities was “inevitable”, the security chief remarked.
Scams and thefts were the two main types of gaming-related crime seen in the first nine months. In the period, the police investigated 155 suspected gaming-related scams, 138.5 percent more than a year ago but 46.7 percent fewer than the same period in 2019.
In January to September this year, a total of 129 suspected gaming-related thefts was recorded, up 486.4 percent on the same period last year but 12.8 percent down on the equivalent time span in 2019, according to Mr Wong’s commentary.
“The typical gaming-related crimes – usury and kidnap – saw an [year-on-year] increase, but both types saw a huge decline when compared to pre-Covid level,” the official remarked.
The Macau police looked into 67 suspected gaming-related usury cases in the first nine months, up 168-percent increase year-on-year, but 85.8 percent fewer than the same period in 2019.
There were 12 gaming-related kidnap cases probed in the January-September period, compared with just one such case in the same period in 2022. The tally for that type of crime was also 95.6 percent lower than the same period in 2019, Mr Wong mentioned.
At the Monday briefing the Secretary also drew attention to antisocial activity in casinos or their surroundings sometimes associated with touts offering unauthorised money changing. He had referred to the topic last month, while speaking at the city’s Legislative Assembly. In his Monday update, “scams” in particular were mentioned.
Macau police identified an aggregate of 137 suspected scam cases tied to unlicensed money changing in the first nine months. They included the passing of fake banknotes, and frauds based on the promise of remittance services.
The 137-case tally was “a number already higher than the 108 [comparable] cases seen in the full year of 2022,” Mr Wong stated.
The Judiciary Police had undertaken an “in-depth” study into the feasibility of criminalising unauthorised money exchange activities, and submitted it to the relevant government departments, the security secretary mentioned, without elaborating.
Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice, André Cheong Weng Chon, told the Legislative Assembly last month that the government was still studying how to tackle the unlicensed, but currently not criminal, money trade business from a legal and enforcement standpoint. Mr Cheong said the government had already discounted the idea of tackling it via planned amendment to the Illegal Gambling Regime, known as Law No.8/96/M.
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