Macau continues to try to clean up its image and to remove any blotch that could give the gambling city a bad name. Although the city has witnessed a reduction in certain suspicious financial activities, it hasn’t been able to eradicate all of them, but continues to try. Money-laundering within casinos has dropped over 6% in the past 12 months, but loan-sharking continues to be a problem. It has increased 14.1% and local law enforcement is taking a stronger stance in order to try to prevent the number from going up any further.
According to law enforcement figures released yesterday, there were 438 gambling-related crimes reported in the first quarter of the year. They included illegal loans, which increased 37.3% to 81 cases. Among these was the recent case of a gambler being killed for not paying his debt.
The increase, and the high-profile murder, is making law enforcement become more active in fighting gambling-related crime. It has already busted several organized crime syndicates this year and has more plans in the works. Macau Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak states the improvements already seen in the number of busts come from an increased focus on the activity, which led to 71 people being arrested in February after they were found to be part of a group conducting loan sharking and kidnapping.
The Macao Judiciary Police has created a new operations center that is designed to coordinate the efforts of criminal investigators and the city’s four inspection teams. The center operates around the clock and more oversight is going to be placed on casino activity in order to continue the crackdown.
Despite the 14% increase, Wong indicates that the illegal activities do not pose a “significant threat to the security of Macau society,” although the family of the recently murdered gambler might disagree.
Macau has had some difficult bringing under control loan sharking in the city. Even 2018 saw an increase over 2017, rising 25.9%. With only one quarter completed in 2019, the number is already more than half that. In addition to the new operations center, more feet on the streets will help, as well.