Macau Authorities Took Down 97 Illegal Gambling, Fraudulent Websites in First Eight Months of 2020

  • Authorities identified 125 illicit gambling or fraud-related websites, taking down 97
  • In 2019, police identified 254 illegal gambling websites, taking down 177
  • The local government’s Policy Address 2021 outlines its commitment to combat illicit gambling
  • The Policy Address also aims to update the legal framework of gaming in Macau in 2021
Tablet displaying a skull and crossbones
Macau authorities identified 125 illicit gambling and fraud-related websites in the first eight months of 2020, managing to take down 97 of them. [Image:]

Fighting back

Macau authorities took down 97 illegal gambling or fraud-related websites over the first eight months of 2020, coordinating their efforts both on and off the island. Some of the websites targeted Macau tourists.

In total, the authorities identified 125 such websites, each of which was hosted on overseas servers. They have not, however, been able to take action against every single site yet. For reference, in 2019, the Judiciary Police in Macau identified 254 illicit gambling websites and were able to block 177 of them.

his administration would keep fostering responsible gambling

The Macau government released its Policy Address 2021 to the public on Monday, providing details about the actions. In a Legislative Assembly plenary meeting, Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng underscored that his administration would keep fostering responsible gambling. He also said that the battle will continue against illegal gambling activities. 

One of the areas of emphasis of the Policy Address 2021 is combating loan-sharking crimes in casinos. The authorities will also crackdown on illicit money exchanges, prostitution, and “tip hustling” at venues that tend to correlate to higher occurrences of gaming-related crime.

Planned legislative changes

An amendment to Macau’s Gaming Law is on the government’s agenda in 2021. As part of his address, Seng said that the government will work to improve the legal framework for the gaming sector. 

The current plan is for the government to begin revising gaming laws in the first quarter of 2021 and to have this work finished by the fourth quarter. A finalized draft bill could then be ready to submit to the Legislative Assembly. This timeline could change due to the public consultation process.

One of the changes to gaming laws that the policy document mentions includes updating the reporting standards for substantial transactions involving junket and gaming operators. There would also be stricter due diligence on electronic transfers of funds from gaming operators. The government plans to start preparing in 2021 for the next round of gaming licensing; the six current Macau gaming licenses will expire in 2022.

State of the casino sector

Over the first eight months of the year, Macau police dealt with 256 gaming-related crime cases, a drop of almost 82% from the same period in 2019. Casinos in the region have been struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These properties had to close for 15 days in February and they reopened at reduced capacity. 

Significant travel restrictions have hampered visitor numbers, leading to an 81.6% year-on-year drop in gross gaming revenue for the casinos in Macau through August. Visitor arrivals into Macau fell 87% for the same period.

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