On Tuesday, Macau Judicial Police (PJ) director Chau Wai Kwong told Radio Macau that the world’s top casino market reported 1,563 criminal cases related to the gaming industry in 2015. That’s a 38% increase over 2014, which was itself up 16.3% from 2013’s total.
The biggest jump in gambling-related criminality came in cases of “kidnapping resulting from loan sharking to play,” which went from 65 cases in 2014 to 366 last year. While the confinements were blamed on local junket operators, this 463% increase in forced confinement reflects junket reports of increased difficulty in collecting gambling debts as China’s economy worsens.
Non-custodial gambling-related loansharking was also up dramatically, with the number of cases rising 56% to 318. In total, the PJ arrested 1,737 people for gaming-related crime in 2015, over half of which (996) were related to loan sharking.
The PJ’s Chau stressed that most gambling-related crime occurred on or near casino property, which meant the general public shouldn’t sweat the increase. Chau noted that citywide extortion rates had fallen nearly 16%, drug offenses were down nearly 14% and the murder rate remained unchanged from 2014’s single homicide.
Nonetheless, Chau acknowledged that the casino industry’s ongoing struggles meant closer attention should be paid to stamping out gambling-related crime. The PJ has set a goal of increasing its number of field agents from 735 to 900.
SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION REPORTS FALL
While casino crime is up, the number of suspicious transaction reports filed by Macau casinos fell 9% in 2015. According to the Financial Intelligence Office, Macau casinos filed 1,247 such reports last year, representing 69% of the reports Macau received from all sources, including banks and other financial service firms.
According to Radio Macau, the actual number of these reports that were sent to the Public Prosecutions Office for further investigation was 125, down from 163 in 2014. The report didn’t specify how many of these investigations led to charges being filed.
The bulk of Macau casino suspicious transaction reports involve chip purchases and redemptions with little actual gambling activity in between, as well as chip conversion or marker redemption by third parties.