Macau’s Judiciary Police has requested web hosting companies working outside Macau to block or remove so far a total of 237 alleged illicit gambling websites. So said on Tuesday Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured in a file photo).
It was unclear from Mr Wong’s comments whether the figure referred only to 2018.
The official added that so far more than 130 of these websites had been blocked or removed.
Mr Wong reiterated that illicit gambling websites that pirated Macau casino brands “seriously damaged” Macau’s image as an international tourism and gaming destination.
The Judiciary Police had investigated and analysed these gambling websites, and had subsequently requested web hosting companies to block or remove these websites, Mr Wong said in a press briefing.
He added that the Macau government was preparing new legislation to curb spam text messages being sent by illegal telecoms equipment. Spam text messages are often used in Macau by criminal organisations to promote illegal gambling websites to mainland Chinese tourists. Mr Wong said he expected the new legislation to be ready next year.
During the first nine months of 2018, Macau’s Judiciary Police conducted a total of nine operations against spam text messages. These operations had resulted in a total of 22 arrests, Mr Wong noted.
Macau’s Judiciary Police recorded a total of 1,338 suspected gaming-related crimes during the January to September period, up by 1.1 percent when compared to the prior-year period, according to Mr Wong. The Macau authorities typically label cases as gaming-related when they take place inside a casino or in its surroundings.
More loansharking cases
During the January to September period, the police recorded a total of 390 gaming-related cases of suspected usury – unlawful lending of money and commonly known as loan-sharking. The tally represented an increase of 24.2 percent increase in year-on-year terms. The number of illegal confinement cases linked to gaming-related usury totalled 218, down by 34.7 percent when compared to the same period of last year.
Mr Wong said the year-on-year rise in the number of gaming-related loan-sharking cases was related to an increase in police investigations.
Macau’s Secretary for Security stressed that local authorities remained “highly on alert” to illicit money exchange activities in and around the city’s casinos. Such activities posed a “direct risk” to Macau’s security, in some cases leading to scams and cases of robbery, he added.
In October alone, police operations and police patrols in and around casinos resulted in the arrest of 670 suspects. Of those, 412 people were suspected of involvement in illicit money exchange activities, Mr Wong added.
In the first nine months of this year, gaming-related cases involving a total of 1,601 suspects were sent to the city’s Public Prosecutions Office, up by 0.2 percent year-on-year, the government official said.
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DS Kim, Amanda Cheng and Livy Lyu
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific)