Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd says it has been alerted to what it describes as “organised crimes” by people posing as telephone sales agents and claiming to be marketing the company’s hotel rooms and other guest products. The criminals are seeking to gain fraudulent access to victims’ personal details and credit card information, the casino firm warned.
Galaxy Entertainment said in a notice posted on its customer website that it had “not conducted telephone sale and marketing of our hotel room and other packages; nor have we made any unsolicited requests for your personal and/or credit card information through e-mail or telephone call to conduct any transaction”.
The company additionally urged the public to contact their local police if receiving any such calls. It also warned the public only to access Galaxy Entertainment services via the official website dedicated to each property or via the group’s customer website.
The warnings come against a background of widespread publicity about the headwinds faced by the Macau tourism industry in both the gaming segment and in non-gaming spending.
Several Macau operators reported a year-on-year fall in their hotel room occupancy rates in the second quarter. Galaxy Entertainment added more than 1,500 extra rooms to the market with the opening on May 27 of its Galaxy Macau Phase 2 and Broadway Macau properties.
Casino gross gaming revenue in Macau fell 36.7 percent year-on-year in the first seven months of this year according to the local gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, also known as the DICJ.
Data published on Wednesday by the city’s Statistics and Census Service showed that Macau visitors’ spending in the second quarter fell by 24.7 percent from a year earlier and 8.3 percent sequentially. Other data issued the same day showed visitor arrivals to Macau numbered 2.65 million in July, down 3.8 percent year-on-year.
Coinciding with the pressure on the Macau tourism market, the city has seen a significant rise year-on-year in the first half in reported cases of crime relating to gaming, said Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, speaking on Friday.
Mr Wong stated that in the six months to June 30, gaming-related criminal cases had jumped 34.5 percent year-on-year, although he stressed in most cases the alleged perpetrators were from outside Macau.
Casino brand owners face regular threats from criminals seeking to exploit the brands’ reputation with the public.
Some illegal online betting websites have even attempted to trade on the name of Macau’s gaming regulator as having authorised their activities. On June 12, the DICJ issued a public notice on its own website stating: “So far, the Macau government has never issued any online interactive gaming licence to any companies. Hence, all online interactive gambling websites in Macau are considered illegal operations.”
In March, Galaxy Entertainment warned the public about unauthorised online gambling websites fraudulently seeking to exploit the company’s brand names.
In June last year Las Vegas Sands Corp, parent firm of Macau casino operator Sands China Ltd, said it was pursuing – via the courts in the United States – the anonymous registrants of 35 websites and domain names allegedly using Las Vegas Sands trademarks.
The marks allegedly infringed by the Chinese-language sites included the English-language name ‘Sands’, and the Chinese characters for ‘golden sand’, which is the Chinese equivalent of the ‘Sands’ trademark.
Some of Galaxy Entertainment’s fellow casino operators in the Macau market told GGRAsia that they have seen cases of unauthorised use of their intellectual property, to which they usually respond with legal action.
Mabel Wu, senior manager, corporate communications, at Sands China, told us by email: “Like all international businesses with multiple well-known brands, Sands China Ltd experiences unauthorised use of its intellectual property and pursues those instances to the fullest extent possible under law”.
Katharine Liu, vice president of communications at Wynn Macau Ltd, the operator of Wynn Macau and Encore at Wynn Macau, told GGRAsia via email: “Wynn Macau remains vigilant against potential cases of fraud that mislead the public into believing they are associated with Wynn. Where appropriate, we will take legal action against the unauthorised use of our trade names, trademarks and brands.”
An emailed response from Irene Wong, vice president of public and community relations at MGM China Holdings Ltd, operator of MGM Macau, said: “MGM China does not discuss specific issues pertaining to the company’s security programme. Our security team has procedures in place which allow us to monitor activities and to respond appropriately in order to protect our guests, employees and the company”.
Neither SJM Holdings Ltd nor Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd had responded to our inquiry – about whether the incidence of fraud attempts against local casino companies had risen during the tourism downturn – by the time this story went online.
SJM Holdings provides the licence for a portfolio of Macau casino properties and directly manages a number of properties including its flagship Grand Lisboa casino-hotel on Macau peninsula. Melco Crown operates the City of Dreams Macau casino resort, Altira Macau casino-hotel and the Mocha Clubs slot hall chain in the city.
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Chief executive of Macau gambling junket investor Tak Chun Group