Crime Inside Macau Casinos Decreases in 2020, One Benefit of a Pandemic

Macau casinos in 2020 have been barren spaces compared with non-pandemic years, and that’s led to fewer reported instances of crime inside the resorts.

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Macau police apprehend an armed robber in a simulation drill last year at Macau Galaxy. (Image: Macau News Agency)

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) in the world’s richest gaming hub is down 81.4 percent through 10 months of the year. Visitor numbers are even worse — 87 percent fewer people making their way into the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

What is one benefit of reduced casino win and fewer travelers in Macau? Less crime.

The Macau Security Office, headed by Wong Sio Chak, reports this week that during the first three quarters of 2020, the enclave experienced a substantial decline in crime allegedly committed on casino floors.

Violent crime dropped 67 percent year-over-year, and non-violent crime decreased by 54 percent. The Macau Public Prosecutions Office says it has filed 2,555 criminal complaints this year, roughly half of what the law enforcement agency had at this point last year.

Compared with the same nine-month period in 2019, the number of pickpocketing cases dropped from 148 reports to just 23. There were 231 incidents of gaming-related scams in 2019, but only 60 this year.

Loan sharking allegations dropped 88 percent to 57 filings. Kidnappings are down 89 percent to 29 reported cases, and drug trafficking fell 43 percent to 53 cases, as entry into Macau was severely limited by COVID-19.

Not all of the news out of the Security Office was good. The number of child sex abuse cases surged 63 percent to 18 reportings.

Security Overhaul

Macau’s six licensed commercial casino operators — Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment, and SJM Holdings — will see their gaming concessions expire in June of 2022. While each of the gaming conductors are expected to receive new permits, they will likely operate under new regulations in 2022 and beyond.

The Macau government is underway with improving its gaming regulatory environment.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng said earlier this month that one focus area is financial transparency. With China claiming more than $150 billion exited the People’s Republic last year through illicit gaming-related channels, Ho says Macau must do better in reporting “substantial transactions” and “strengthen due diligence” on casino operators’ facilitating of capital for customers.

Macau Crackdown

Though crime inside Macau casinos has been reduced in 2020, there’s been an increase in illegal online gambling networks trying to cater to the high-rollers who typically gamble in the enclave.

The Security Office says 125 internet gaming platforms have been identified offshore that are marketing gambling services to known gamblers who frequent Macau. All of the websites have their servers hosted outside of China.

Macau police say 97 websites have gone offline because of law enforcement’s reaction to their alleged illicit activities. Online gambling is illegal everywhere throughout China, including in Macau.

Ho said this month that a major goal of his administration is to “foster responsible gambling” and “combat illegal gambling.”

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