Macau officials have 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. The authorities have had a number of operations recently to counter such trade. In March it emerged that the industry had pledged to support the authorities in counter measures.
It was one of the topics in a general discussion on Friday (pictured) – held between management from the six gaming operators and officials from, respectively, the Judiciary Police, the casino regulator the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, and the Fire Services Bureau – on how to maintain and if necessary improve, order and security in the vicinity of the city’s casinos.
The Macau authorities had seen a “deterrent effect”on rogue money changers by adding those suspected of involvement or detained for such activities to a list of people banned from entering local gaming venues, said the Judiciary Police in a Sunday statement following the gathering. The police had also conducted a greater number of spot checks in recent times at the city’s casino properties in order to combat another gaming-related social ill: loan-sharking, said Sunday’s notice.
The Judiciary Police added they would seek to apply further “effective measures” – in concert with the local gaming regulator – in order to curb illicit trading and changing of cash. Macau’s casino bets are mostly denominated in Hong Kong dollars, and often the assets of the city’s mainland Chinese players are denominated in Chinese yuan. There are official limits on how much Chinese currency can legally be exported by individuals beyond mainland boundaries, but there are frequent and varied attempts to get round the rules.
The Judiciary Police also mentioned in the statement there had been a year-on-year increase for the first ten months of this year in what they termed gaming-related crimes. That included “usury” or loan sharking; and the often related unlawful detention of gamblers.
Specific numbers for gaming-related crime cases for the January to October period were not mentioned in the Sunday announcement.
Macau’s police bodies – the Judiciary Police and the Public Security Police – recorded in aggregate 169 cases of alleged unlawful detention relating to gaming during the first half of this year, up 17.4 percent on the same period last year.
For the first half of this year, alleged gaming-related loan-sharking – also known as usury – totalled 295 cases, representing a 16.1 percent increase year-on-year, according to official figures released previously.
In its Sunday summary, the Judiciary Police noted that gaming-related thefts inside casinos had been decreasing; but such crimes tended to occur more frequently during periods of extended public holiday. Theft of chips left unattended at gaming tables by patrons; and the theft of personal belongings in crowded spots inside casinos, were two of the most common alleged offences during busy times, the police said.
The police also highlighted that meetings of the sort conducted on Friday regarding casino-industry order and security would become a regular thing.
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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