Macau’s VIP gambling revenue may be in the dumps but casino-related crime is on the rise, according to the special administrative region’s security chief.
On Monday, Macau Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak announced that the overall number of local crimes had remained relatively stable over the first nine months of 2019, rising only 0.4% from the same period last year.
However, gaming-related crimes were up 19.5% to 1,599, with so-called ‘scams’ up by two-thirds to 291. Wong clarified that gaming-related scams primarily involved illicit money exchanges that either never delivered on their promises or paid customers in counterfeit currency.
But casino operators weren’t spared, as numerous scammers tried to pass fake casino chips or colluded with table dealers to ensure they were paid out higher winnings than they were actually owned.
There were 471 cases of gaming-related loan-sharking, a 20.8% year-on-year rise. Macau police also recorded 274 cases (+25.7%) of gaming-related illegal detentions – usually involving outfits that advance gamblers money then hold them hostage until they can make arrangements with relatives on the mainland to forward the borrowed sums (plus interest).
Robberies were up nearly 30% to 61, with most of the thefts taking place in and around hotels. Wong sought to reassure local residents by emphasizing that the vast majority of victims of gaming-related crime were visitors to Macau. So, you know, screw ‘em.
While it all sounds doomy and gloomy, the overall increase in gaming-related crime is partially a reflection of the authorities stepping up their presence at local casinos. Wong said the Judiciary Police and Public Security Police made 2,317 patrols at casinos in the first nine months of 2019, nearly double the number made during the same period last year.
Macau is currently rolling out its new Sky Eye video surveillance system, with around 800 cameras set to be installed in public spaces by the first quarter of 2020. By 2023, Macau hopes to have up to 2,600 cameras monitoring the comings and goings of Macau’s residents and visitors.