As casino activity in Macau starts to increase, local police have made a number of arrests relating to money exchange fraud.
While these types of offenses have not been too prevalent because of the COVID-19 fallout, the city’s Judiciary Police (JP) arrested several people in September over fraud allegations. Further arrests took place in recent days, with some of the incidents dating back to 2019.
money exchange gangs that regularly operate within the casino sector
In all, there were six fraud cases involving money exchange gangs that regularly operate within the casino sector. A few of the cases related to people robbing casinos while the others concern money fraud at the casinos.
A joint police press conference on November 4 shed light on the details of some of the latest arrests. In one instance, police arrested a 51-year-old woman for stealing casino chips from a gaming table on November 2. While she returned the chips later, a casino worker witnessed the theft of chips worth HKD30,200 (US$21,281) and she was subsequently arrested.
In another case, two people were arrested on October 30 in connection with six robberies at a single casino last year. They were also accused of a robbery at another casino, with the thefts totaling HKD165,000 (US$21,280). The casino received an anonymous letter detailing these robberies and the police tracked down the suspects.
discovered the fake bills after trying to exchange the cash for casino chips
One of the cases involved a victim who was looking to obtain Hong Kong dollars (HKD) in exchange for Chinese yuan. The exchange was worth approximately 262,500 yuan (US$39,700). Instead of real money, the accused gave the victim counterfeit bills. The victim discovered the fake bills after trying to exchange the cash for casino chips. Casino security stopped the accused before he was able to escape.
Finally, police apprehended a man in October connected to a November 2019 fraud case. Five people accused him of fraud after they invested in a supposed casino VIP room that turned out to be a scam. The five people lost a reported 3.65 million yuan (US$551,000).
Tough times for Macau
Casinos are still trying to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic fallout. The third-quarter financials for a number of major Macau casino properties illustrate their struggles so far in 2020.
Wynn Resorts’ properties in Macau suffered losses of $216m during the quarter ended September 30. Operating revenues for its flagship Wynn Palace resort were just $15.7m for the period, compared to $598.2m last year. Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox did note that some green shoots of recovery have appeared in recent months.
After casinos closed for a 15-day period in February, significant travel restrictions were in place for a long time. This meant that there were very few tourists coming into Macau and casino revenues plummeted. While border restrictions have been gradually easing in recent months and revenues are on a slight increase, there are clearly still issues to deal with.