Posted on: December 11, 2020, 07:28h.
Last updated on: December 11, 2020, 07:28h.
The Macau Judiciary Police says it has infiltrated an alleged online gambling operation that was conducting illegal business from within the enclave.
The law enforcement agency claims the internet gaming network had its servers hosted in Macau. Police believe the operation began back in 2016, and had generated profits of at least MOP100 million (US$12.5 million) through this year.
During a briefing today, Macau officials revealed that the internet gaming scheme used the front of an “advertising and design company” in an attempt to conceal the business’ true activity.
Two Macau locals, and two residents of mainland China, were arrested in the police sting.
Macau is the world’s richest gaming hub, the six licensed commercial casino operators winning $36.5 billion last year. The gross gaming revenue came entirely on the brick-and-mortar casino floors, as online gambling is illegal in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) and throughout China.
Judiciary says several of the gaming websites involved in this week’s seizure used branding of Macau’s six licensed casino operators — Sands, MGM, Wynn, Melco, SJM, and Galaxy.
While Judiciary claims the websites’ servers were physically located in Macau, some of the organization’s operations came from overseas. The agency says live dealers were based in Thailand and Cambodia.
COVID-19 has nearly halted Macau’s gaming industry, which the enclave’s economy is based upon. Casino win through November is down 80.5 percent, as the SAR closed down its borders and required incoming visitors to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine throughout much of the year.
In September, one Macau lawmaker called for the legalization of iGaming in an effort to keep the gaming industry afloat.
The Macau SAR government should establish official standards and regulations on interactive gaming, and develop interactive gaming software together, in order to increase revenue from gaming tax and to further develop gaming industries,” opined Deputy Jose Maria Pereira Coutinho.
However, to date, any form of online gaming in Macau remains prohibited.
It’s nearly impossible to find any good stemming from COVID-19, but one small tidbit is that crime inside Macau casinos has decreased during the pandemic.
The Macau Security Office reported last month that violent crime is down 67 percent, and non-violent crime down 54 percent. Pickpocketing, gaming-related scams, loan sharing, drug trafficking, and kidnappings have lowered across the board.
Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, whose tenure began a year ago this month, will likely be in charge when Macau issues fresh tenders to the casino licensees in 2022. All six current gaming concession holders are expected to receive new permits, but they will operate under new regulations.
Ho says his focus will be to better limit associated crime with the planet’s richest casino market. That includes eradicating online gaming syndicates from reaching VIP high rollers.
The Security Office has identified 125 online gaming platforms based offshore that have been actively targeting known VIPs that traditionally gamble in Macau. The law enforcement agency claims that nearly 100 of those sites have since gone offline after being pinpointed by the Security Office.