Macau authorities seem intent on making a statement as we go into 2021, with over 35 people arrested in December for illegal gambling-related crimes.
In the first bust on December 14th, Macau’s Judiciary Police (PJ) raided several apartments and offices in the territory. The operation ended with the arrest of four people on charges of running illegal online gambling services.
Mainland Chinese police arrested one individual in the city of Zhuhai in May and tracked his associations (some of which turned out to be his family members) to Macau.
The family has allegedly been running several online gambling businesses since 2016, including operations in illegal markets like the Philippines, Thailand, and China itself.
The group’s server farm was found, with the capacity to host 40 websites. Some of them were set up to look like they were hosted by legal land-based casino operators in Macau, including Galaxy Entertainment and Wynn Macau.
“GEG has no affiliations with any online gambling and betting sites, nor have we directly or indirectly authorized any websites and/or related companies to carry out any form of online gambling and betting activities for or on behalf of us,” Galaxy Entertainment said in a statement.
This family operation is believed to have made over $12 million in illicit profits for the four members since 2016.
The second illegal gambling sting by Macau authorities happened on December 30th. It makes the previous case’s numbers look like peanuts in scale.
Authorities discovered a criminal gang had installed card machines in jewellery and pawn shops designed to look like they were processing transactions from Mainland China.
High-value gamblers would use these stores, conveniently set up near casinos, to make huge purchases – and then refund them for cash value hours later.
This allowed gamblers to dodge transaction taxes applied to any cash entering the special administrative region of Macau from China, as well as point of sale taxes.
It also allowed people to move money in and out of Macau’s casinos without official oversight, potentially opening the door to money laundering and other shady practices.
Macau Police arrested 30 people across 30 raids at locations including private residences, offices, and the shops themselves. Official figures report that the criminal ring had processed over $1.78 billion in illegal transactions since it started, also in 2016.
Chinese police also arrested 39 more suspects in what was a widespread enterprise. China’s leadership has been cracking down massively on illegal online gambling recently.
As one of the only legal (land-based) gambling markets in the region, Macau’s authorities clearly want to be seen as proactively helping their powerful neighbour’s initiatives.
Probably partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal gambling crimes are down around 80% on this time last year in the territory. However, this latest round of arrests and raids may bump that figure up as we head deeper into 2021.
For the latest updates on the hottest global gambling stories, keep checking Gambling Times. Happy New Year!