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Macau denies promoting online gambling sites, sets up new cybercrime unit

TAGs: cybercrime, Macau, macau government tourist office

macau-online-surveillanceMacau officials want it made clear that they’re not in the business of promoting online gambling sites via text messages.

Over the weekend, the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) announced that it was alarmed by reports of mobile phone users receiving text messages promoting online gambling sites. The messages claimed to be from the MGTO and were based around the theme of Experience Macau.

The MGTO does promote an Experience Macau mobile app but its scope is limited to information regarding Macau tourist sites, attractions, accommodation and trip planning. The MGTO insists that it has nothing to do with the messages promoting online gambling sites and it has referred the case to the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), the Judiciary Police and the Bureau of Telecommunications Regulation.

This isn’t the first time a Macau government agency has felt compelled to issue such clarifications. In June, the DICJ warned consumers that it had never issued any online gambling licenses and thus any site attempting to claim it was acting with the DICJ’s blessing was a sham.

Similarly, Macau-licensed brick-and-mortar casino operators Galaxy Entertainment Group, Las Vegas Sands and SJM Holdings have all had to issue public warnings in recent years regarding online gambling sites attempting to cash in on these companies’ well-recognized brands and trademarks.

Small wonder, then, that Macau’s government announced this week that it intends to set up a new cyber security center to combat illegal online activity. Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak reminded the Macau Legislative Assembly that similar units had already been established on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong and it was time Macau got in the game.

Wong said the Judiciary Police had no timeline for implementing the new unit but would begin establishing an organizational structure early in 2016. Wong said Macau’s anti-computer crime law, which hasn’t been updated since 2009, would require amending to ensure the new unit had the authority to address cross-border digital shenanigans without violating Macau’s data protection laws.

Wong rejected suggestions that the new unit would threaten Macau residents’ online freedom of expression, saying the unit would focus on monitoring internet traffic through key facilities using “internationally recognized means,” which hopefully isn’t code for ‘stuff the NSA does.’

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