Macau Gaming-Related Crimes Spike Attributed to Lifting of COVID-19 Restrictions
- Gaming-related crimes jumped by over 170% year-on-year during the Jan-Sept 2023 period
- The spike is assumed to be mainly due to the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions
- The most common crimes include scams, with the majority of the cases linked to unlicensed money-changing
Macau has reported a significant rise in gaming-related crimes in the first nine months of 2023, but authorities said the increase is attributable to the low base in 2022 when COVID-19 restrictions were still in place.
When compared to the same period in 2019, the latest number is down over 50%, reflecting Macau’s intensified campaign against gaming-related crimes.
Over 700 Gaming-Related Crimes Recorded from Jan-Sept 2023
According to Macau’s Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak, from January to September 2023, a total of 716 suspected gaming-related crime cases were investigated, a jump of 178.6% from 2022 but down 55.2% from the same period in 2019.
The increase is expected as the reporting period covers the time when the city’s gaming operations returned to normalcy. Low numbers were recorded in 2022 as tourism and gaming activities were still limited due to pandemic-related restrictions, Mr. Wong stated.
The majority of the gaming-related crimes recorded during the first nine months of the year accounted for scams (155) and thefts (129), representing a year-on-year increase of 138.5% and 486.4% respectively. But these numbers are down 46.7% and 12.8% respectively when compared to Jan-Sept 2019 figures. Gaming-related usury cases (67) and kidnap cases (12) also jumped year-on-year but were significantly fewer than the same period in 2019.
Rapid Rise in Unlicensed Money-Changing
Breaking down the numbers, Mr. Wong highlighted the rapid rise in unlicensed money changing which usually takes place within or near casino premises. The illegal activity accounted for the vast majority of scam cases for the Jan-Sept 2023 period, with police identifying a total of 137 cases involving unauthorized money changers. The figure is already higher than the 108 cases recorded in the entire 2022.
The security chief spoke about the topic during a recent Legislative Assembly session discussing Macau’s 2024 Policy Address wherein he revealed that the number of individuals suspected to be involved in unlicensed money-changing in the city rose by a massive 232% in the first nine months of 2023.
The Macau government is still exploring ways to better deal with the issue. At the moment, unlicensed money-changing is not considered a criminal act in the city, which means people caught engaging in such activities cannot be prosecuted. This will remain the case in the foreseeable future as the government did not include unlicensed money-changing in proposed amendments to the Illegal Gambling Regime, known as Law No. 8/96/M.
However, Mr. Wong indicated that the Judiciary Police already submitted to the relevant government agencies a feasibility study on the criminalization of unauthorized money-changing.