The Macau casino regulator has demanded gaming concessionaires and junket operators ensure strict enforcement of a 2016 instruction banning use of telephones by players while at any of the city’s gaming tables.
The reminder from the regulator followed a case made public on Friday about alleged illicit use of the mobile messaging application WeChat to link outside punters to actual casino games inside a licensed Macau casino. It was the second reported case this year of such activity.
Macau’s Judiciary Police on Thursday arrested 13 mainland Chinese men and four male Macau residents for alleged criminal association and operation of illegal gaming. It was said the suspects had been filming – in “real time” – VIP baccarat games in a Cotai casino and then broadcasting them via WeChat to a network of gamblers outside casino premises.
Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – also known by its Portuguese-language acronym DICJ – stated in a Friday press release it was paying “close attention” to the case. The release was only made available in Chinese and Portuguese.
The document added: “DICJ has demanded of gaming concessionaires and promoters that – besides strictly complying with the casino tableside phone ban measure – they step up inspection efforts regarding the use of telecommunication equipment in other casino areas. Anyone suspected of wrongdoing should be immediately reported to the authorities.”
The tableside telephone ban came into effect on May 9, 2016 after an announcement to that effect three days earlier. Steve Wynn, chairman of Macau casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd, stated at the time it meant an end in the Macau market to betting via telephone. Such activity is also known in the industry as ‘proxy’ betting because of the use of a person or ‘proxy’, physically present at the gaming table but making a bet as per telephoned instructions, on behalf of someone outside the casino.
Prior to May 2016, Macau VIP clients could use their phones at the casino table while gambling, provided that they had registered for that purpose.
One problem with telephone betting, say several gaming lawyers spoken to by GGRAsia, is that the practice risks creating a loophole regarding the “know your customer” protocol. Such a protocol is encouraged under best international practices on tackling the threat of money laundering.
Even after Macau’s official ban on use of telephones at tableside came into effect in May 2016, there were rumours of telephone use at gaming tables. The Macau authorities issued during the period from May 9, 2016, to April 16 this year a total of 71 verbal cautions to casino patrons for their alleged violation of the instruction banning use of telephones while at any of the city’s gaming tables, DICJ told GGRAsia in April. A majority of the warnings – 49 in total – were issued between January 1 and April 9 this year, added the gaming regulator.
In April this year, Macau’s Judiciary Police arrested seven mainland Chinese men over their alleged involvement in what the police termed illegal betting worth US$1.3 million, by gamblers from China making use of the social messaging service WeChat. It is thought the suspects arranged for gamblers to place their bets on the results of some actual VIP baccarat games in the city’s casinos.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters