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.
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.