Macau’s police services have seen a slowdown in terms of the year-on-year growth of gaming-related loan-sharking and unlawful detention cases during the second quarter of this year, the city’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured in a file photo), said in a Tuesday press briefing.
The Macau authorities label cases as gaming-related when they take place inside a casino or in its surroundings.
According to data released on Tuesday by the Secretary’s office, Macau police forces – the Judiciary Police and the Public Security Police – have recorded in aggregate 169 cases of alleged unlawful detention relating to gaming during the first half of this year. That was 17.4 percent more than in the same period last year.
Of the 169 cases in the first six months of 2019, 166 allegedly involved detention of persons by loan sharks: a tally up 23.0 percent year-on-year.
But the second-quarter rise in the number of unlawful detentions was 11.8 percent in year-on-year terms, lower than the 37.3-percent growth seen in the first quarter, the Secretary highlighted in the briefing.
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. Mr Wong noted that the rise in the number of such cases had also slowed – to 9.9 percent year-on-year – in the second quarter, compared to the 25.5-percent expansion seen in the first quarter.
“The police forces have continuously patrolled and combatted against these two types of gaming-related crimes, and we’ve accomplished some effective results,” Mr Wong said, referring to the second-quarter slowing of growth in gaming-related usury and unlawful detention cases.
Overall, the police recorded an aggregate of 968 gaming-related crime cases during the first half of this year, a 15.2-percent increase on the same period last year. Such crimes also involved scams and thefts inside casinos. According to Mr Wong, the suspects and victims of all of these alleged instances of casino-related crime were mostly non-locals.
The official added that Macau still had a “zero or low” instance of “serious violent crimes”. But at least two cases reported in the first half this year – respectively involving scenarios where a person died – allegedly took place at casino properties in the city.
According to Mr Wong’s Tuesday briefing and previous local media reports, a mainland Chinese national allegedly involved in illicit money exchange business was stabbed to death by another mainland Chinese man inside a Macau casino hotel in February. In a separate case that took place in May, a mainland Chinese man died from a knife attack in Cotai, a case suspected by the local police as resulting from conflicts between two sex-trade gangs.
Both of the deadly attacks had resulted in arrests of the some of the key suspects in mainland China via “collaborative efforts” with the police there, Mr Wong said on Tuesday.
“Though these two cases have seen a speedy resolution [in arrests], the police are deeply concerned of the negative impact brought by the people involved in illicit money exchange business and sex trade to the city’s security,” Mr Wong remarked to media.
The security official also noted that since June 9, the city’s police forces had started to organise “large-scale” patrols in casinos and their surroundings on a daily basis.
The police also “regularly” communicated with the city’s casino regulator – the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – and provided the latter a suggested blacklist regarding illicit money exchange traders to try to ensure they would not be able to return to Macau casinos, Mr Wong added.
In a separate response to a written enquiry filed by local legislators, Mr Wong’s office had said in late August that the city’s police forces had, during the first half this year, detected an aggregate of 4,039 people suspected of engaging in illicit money exchange activities in Macau. The statement added that 3,109 of them were eventually expelled from Macau and banned from re-entering the city for periods varying from one to three years.
“Macau’s security condition may see more uncertainties as several celebrations and large-scale events are drawing near in the second half of this year, with more visitors coming here. In face of this the police forces will maintain a high alert to casino-related security issues, and reinforce our collaborations with Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau as well as the gaming industry to prevent and fight crimes,” Mr Wong remarked in Tuesday’s briefing.
In December Macau will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from Portuguese administration to that of China.
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Spending on purchase of goods, commissions paid and customer rebates in Macau's gaming industry in 2018