Authorities in Macau are calling on international communications companies to help them fight back against illicit online gambling platforms.
These illicit platforms are copying the brands of casinos based in Macau and pretending to be their online offerings, thus duping people into thinking they are something they are not.
The practice is starting to damage the image of Macau as being a global destination for tourists.
ISPs take down sites
At a press conference, Macau’s secretary of state for security touched upon these sites, which are illegally piggybacking on casino trademarks. Each of these platforms is claiming it has either an affiliation with a casino operator in Macau, or some other local regulator for gaming.
The judiciary police in Macau has been in touch with numerous web hosting providers internationally, asking them to remove or block a list of 237 online gambling platforms. To date, 130 of the platforms have been taken down by the hosting companies.
This is still an active approach, as the number of removed sites was about 90 back in August. Hosting companies are checking on a case-by-case basis whether these platforms are in fact breaking the law.
Other frauds in the region
This is not the first incident the Macau authorities have had to deal with of late.
Authorities in China shut down a criminal operation that was running five different illegal online gambling platforms that were using the trademarks of Sands China and SJM Holdings, both of which are Macau casino operators.
The Wynn Macau gave a warning in September that a number of fraudulent online platforms were illegally using its trademarks.
The Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau in Macau has been issuing warnings on the subject since 2015.
No online gambling activities have been given the green light. Some of the casino operators have successfully sued some of these illegal platforms. However, collecting financial compensation is proving to be an issue.
There is also a concern in the region about the increasing popularity of using loan sharks. The frequency of loan shark cases rose by almost 25% from January until September. One of the reasons for this increase is because the police are making more of an effort to crack down on illegal lenders.
Performance of Macau casinos
Despite the problems with illegal online platforms, casinos in Macau seem to be going from strength to strength. They are by far the most popular destination for gambling worldwide.
Casino revenues for the month of October saw a high that has not been hit since 2014, with gross gaming revenues worth almost $3.38bn. This is the highest month performance since $3.46bn in October 2014.
To date in 2018, gross gaming revenues sit at $31bn, which is a 14.3% increase on the same period in 2017. It is also the highest figure of this kind since 2014.
October generally is a good month for Macau casinos, but it certainly seems that no slowdown is in sight. Revenues have increased year on year for 27 consecutive years.
Macau is also bullish about the future. A 34 mile long bridge costing $20bn that connects Macau to Hong Kong is likely to boost visitor numbers even further. It is the longest sea bridge anywhere on the globe. It was officially opened in late October, so the increasing numbers will be seen in November figures onwards.
Currently, many analysts are predicting a slowdown in Macau’s fortunes.
The region has traditionally been very reliant on the VIP market, but this has been decreasing in recent years, forcing the casinos to bolster revenues elsewhere.
The Chinese economy is also slowing down, which is cause for some concern. Generally, Macau will mimic the performance of an economy. When times are good, people will have more money to spend on vacations and gambling.
Finally, the trade war between the United States and China is causing further concern in the region. A number of US casino operators in Macau have their licenses up for renewal in the coming years. Some people believe they might struggle to get them renewed due to these turbulent trade times.