The first nine months of 2023 saw a 232 percent year-on-year increase in the number of individuals suspected of unlicensed money-changing in Macau, said the city’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak (pictured, centre) during a Legislative Assembly session on Friday to discuss the city’s 2024 Policy Address.
The touting issue was on the authorities’ radar in the pre-Covid period. Mr Wong noted also in his Friday comments, that from January – coinciding with the normalisation of travel in and out of Macau – up to September this year, the local authorities had apprehended 9,633 individuals allegedly involved in unauthorised money exchange. The tally was up circa 232-percent compared to the 2,899 individuals apprehended in the same period last year.
Secretary Wong noted that previously, detection and interruption of such activity – commonly occurring on or near casino premises – had been “the job of the Judiciary Police and Public Security Police; but in these two, three years, we have the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau to tackle it [as well] and they engage the casino operators to spot these illicit money touts.” The latter was a reference to Macau’s casino regulator, also known as DICJ.
Mr Wong was also asked about a topic mentioned by his colleague, the Secretary for Administration and Justice, André Cheong Weng Chon, when he spoke at the assembly last week. This was how to tackle long-term the unlicensed, but currently not criminal, money-trade business from a legal and enforcement standpoint.
Mr Cheong had said the government had already discounted the idea of tackling it via the planned amendment to the Illegal Gambling Regime, known as Law No.8/96/M.
Secretary Wong said in his Friday remarks: “We had previously communicated with the administrative and justice departments. We are only ready to submit a legal proposal if we reach a consensus.”
Measures to face down unauthorised money exchange would, for now, remain “patrols and inspections”, or banning suspects from entering Macau again, he added.
Mr Wong has previously suggested some money touts were associated with crimes including scams, robberies, assaults, and even murders..
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