Macau’s government plans to create an online database of individuals barred from setting foot on a casino gaming floor, potentially opening the door to junket operators’ long-sought list of bad credit risks.
On Tuesday, Macau Business reported that the Legislative Assembly committee tasked with amending casino entry regulations had been told by the government that “an online platform with password access” will replace the current system of issuing confidential letters to gaming operators detailing who is to be denied entry to casino floors.
The government clarified that the database will only contain names of individuals who have been barred from casino access through judicial decisions or who have requested self-exclusion. The database won’t include information on casino staff, who will be automatically excluded once the legislation is approved.
Macau’s Office for Personal Data Protection is said to have okayed the new database, provided the listed individuals are notified of their inclusion. It’s unclear precisely what identifying data will be included on the list., but work on the bill will resume in October when the legislature reconvenes after its fall break.
The government plans to restrict access to the database to gaming staff with the “required competences” or those specifically tasked by the companies with monitoring the list.
A BOOST TO JUNKET OPERATOR BAD DEBTOR LIST?
News of the database will undoubtedly be welcomed by Macau’s junket operators, who have long pushed for the establishment of an industry-wide blacklist of bad debtors. However, the creation of this database has been blocked due to Macau’s strict data protection laws that prohibit public dissemination of personal information.
In 2014, the operator of a ‘name and shame’ website of casino debtors – which was widely suspected at the time to have some connection to the junket industry – was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail for violating the data laws.
In 2016, following discussions with junket operators, Macau’s gaming regulator said some kind of shared database of gamblers who’d stiffed junkets was a “viable” option, although there remained “a lot of legal issues” that needed working out.
This March, the head of Macau’s junket operator association told GGRAsia that the database plan was once again on “indefinite” hold because Macau’s data watchdogs objected to the junkets having responsibility for running this database.
The junkets had planned to ask their gambling clients to authorize the release of their personal information to the database when they applied for credit from the junkets. Macau’s data watchdogs insisted that these gamblers should be granted access to the database, something the junkets were reportedly okay with, but little has been heard of this plan since.
BLOCKCHAIN TO THE RESCUE?
A couple months ago, media outlet Sina Finance reported that the Jiangsu Suning Bank on the Chinese mainland had created a blockchain-based system to keep track of customers with sketchy credit histories. Suning Bank was allowing its partner banks to act as nodes on this blockchain so they could also access the blacklist.
Suning Bank encouraged partner banks to contribute names of their own dodgy credit clients, thus allowing all nodes on this blockchain access to real-time updates that could protect them from authorizing credit to any of the names on the blacklist.
Macau and Hong Kong are the only areas under Chinese control in which non-lottery gambling is permitted, but it seems somewhat counterintuitive that mainland China would have more permissive data protection rules than Macau.
Here is a situation in which a mainland bank appears to be afforded options that are being denied to Macau gaming operators, despite each database essentially seeking to achieve the same aims. What gives?