The value of detected transactions using unregistered China UnionPay Co Ltd terminals in Macau amounted to MOP784 million (US$98.2 million) in 2014, Portuguese news agency Lusa reports, citing Macau police sources.
Macau’s Judiciary Police has investigated 47 cases last year, identifying more than 120 suspects – more than 100 from mainland China, Lusa reported.
Since the beginning of 2015, five cases of what the police describe as illegal transactions through unregistered UnionPay terminals have been detected, involving transactions worth MOP260 million, the report added.
A total of 79 unregistered UnionPay terminals have been detected since last year, the police told Lusa.
According to Macau authorities, traders legitimately using the China UnionPay system for transactions in the city must pay the parties involved a maximum fee of 1.4 percent of the amount of the transaction.
UnionPay International Co Ltd, a subsidiary focusing on transactions outside the borders of the People’s Republic of China, including the Special Administrative Regions of Macau and Hong Kong, receives 0.2 percent of that fee.
As such, UnionPay International missed out on MOP1.57 million in transaction fees for deals allegedly done on unregistered terminals in Macau last year, according to Lusa.
Mainland visitors are only allowed to take a daily limit of RMB20,000 (US$3,188) out of mainland China in cash. Gamblers however routinely get around this by purchasing items from one of Macau’s pawnshops or jewellery stores using their UnionPay cards, immediately returning it in exchange for cash – a transaction that is not illegal.
Authorities in the city have been closely monitoring transactions via UnionPay and are cracking down on the use of unregistered, handheld card swipe devices. According to the police, the illegal transactions using these devices took place not only at casinos, but also “in restaurants and other establishments” close to gaming venues, and also in cars parked close to such venues, Lusa reported.
Jewellery and watch shops inside the precincts of the city’s casinos have been banned from applying for new UnionPay swipe terminals since July 1.
Concerns over disruption to the UnionPay system in Macau have been pointed out by investment analysts as headwinds for the city’s casino industry, as it makes accessing liquidity more difficult.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China