Asian Countries Warned To Increase AML Vigilance At Casinos
Vietnam did not allow its citizens to gamble at its casino resorts and only permitted foreigners to place bets. However, the Vietnamese government recently lifted the local ban and that has caused an influx of locals to start gambling.
While this news is positive for casino operators in the country, there are also concerns over the fact that money laundering could be taking place.
A recent US State Department report pointed out this risk and said it was very important for the local authorities to implement and enforce any anti-money-laundering (AML) laws to ensure that this does not happen.
Vietnam Relaxes Laws
The requirements for local Vietnamese to be able to gamble at a casino are pretty steep though. Locals are not allowed to enter any casino and gamble. The government is only giving select casinos a license to allow locals to gamble. In order to obtain this special license, the casino operator has to have a capital investment of at least $2 billion. There is currently only one location that meets this requirement and this is the Corona Resort and Casino, on Phu Quoc island. This casino only opened its doors to the public in Jan 2019. A second casino is expected to open in North Vietnam in Van Don.
As for local gamblers gaining entrance, there are only two requirements. One is that they need to be at least 21 years old. The other one is that they earn at least VND10 million a month. There is also an entrance fee for Vietnamese gamblers to play.
Macau and Philippines Must Beef Up AML Efforts
Besides the risk to Vietnam, money laundering is also on the rise in Macau and the Philippines. This is because of the existence of several casino-related loopholes that allow them to be major centers of money laundering. Malaysia was also pointed out as another money laundering hotspot.
In the report, the US State Department wrote
Money launderers continue to use offshore centres, free-trade zones, and gaming enterprises to launder illicit funds. These sectors can offer convenience and, often, anonymity to those wishing to hide or launder the proceeds of narcotics trafficking and other serious crimes.
The real problem is that there are high cash thresholds in both Macau and the Philippines. Macau allows for transactions up to $62,640 while the Philippines allows for transactions up to $100,000. The large amounts can allow for easy cash transfers. This is why it is recommended that transaction limits should be lowered to $3,000 to meet with international standards. Other measures have been proposed to close other loopholes but the Philippines and Macau have a long way to go to be truly free from money laundering risks.