The Macau government is still studying how to tackle unauthorised money exchange activities, frequently observed on the city’s casino floors or their surroundings, and commonly interrupted by the authorities. But the government has already discounted tackling it via legal provisions to be introduced to the planned amendment to the Illegal Gambling Regime, known as Law No.8/96/M.
That is according to Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice, André Cheong Weng Chon (pictured), in response to questions posed by legislator Ella Lei Cheng I, during a plenary Legislative Assembly session on Monday. The session was to discuss Macau’s 2024 Policy Address.
“Later on, we will introduce to the Legislative Assembly the amendment to the illegal gambling regime. Previously, we did have consideration to add it [illict money exchange] to this bill,” said Mr Cheong. In April, the government had confirmed to GGRAsia the plan for a bill to cover an update to the city’s illegal gambling regime as part of a number of regulatory steps impacting the gaming sector.
But Mr Cheong noted in his Monday comments that because such actions were tantamount to what he termed “illicit currency swaps [exchange]” – it should be looked at instead “within the framework of the financial system”.
Macau’s recently amended Financial System Act – in force from November 1 – does not itself include any provision for criminalisation of unauthorised money exchange activities.
At the Monday session, Mr Cheong mentioned that unlicensed exchange of money is currently punishable as an administrative offence.
The Secretary, who is also spokesman for the city’s Executive Council, added: “As to whether, in some grave cases we should enhance it [the offence] to a criminal level, we need a comprehensive study into the subject. Of course, when it involves any legislation work, it should not affect the normal currency exchange activities amongst the residents here.”
“We are not considering tackling the topic within the illegal gambling regime [amendment]. But the subject itself is still being followed up and studied by the relevant government departments,” Mr Cheong told the Legislative Assembly.
The illegal gambling regime, or Law No.8/96/M, applies respectively to: gaming activities that take place outside authorised gaming venues; any unlawful gaming activities that take place within authorised gaming venues; and gaming-related usury.
In remarks to local press in April this year, Mr Cheong had mentioned that the government would duly deliver a new legal proposal updating the illegal gambling regime to the Legislative Assembly for deliberation within this year.
The idea of actual criminalisation of unlicensed money exchange activities had been flagged by the city’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, in a September briefing on local crime statistics. Mr Wong had voiced concerns about exchange touts lurking in or near casinos, which he suggested were people sometimes associated with crimes including scams, robberies, assaults, and even murders.
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