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Macau Lawmakers Propose Bill to Better Combat Gambling Crimes

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Posted on: February 19, 2024, 11:21h. 

Last updated on: February 19, 2024, 11:44h.

The Macau government on Monday looked to strengthen protections to limit gambling crimes and increase penalties for those who commit them.  The legislation was introduced in December, but just now publicized.

Macau casino gambling crime China
Legislation introduced in the Macau Legislative Assembly seeks to provide the region’s Public Security Police Force with new powers. The bill additionally would increase fines and prison time for persons who commit gambling crimes in the Chinese region. (Image: Reuters)

Macau’s Legislative Assembly is mulling a statute titled, “Law to Combat Illegal Gambling Crimes.” The measure seeks to update the Chinese enclave’s gaming laws, specifically Law No.8/96/M, which deals with illegal gambling.

The extensive package includes penalties for persons found guilty of providing illegal loans for gambling inside the city’s casinos. A person who makes such a loan can be punished by up to five years in prison. A loanee faces similar prison time for accepting money to gamble.

The prison penalty can be increased to eight years if the loaner performs an “aggravated” incident in seeking the return of the money.

In this legal proposal, our suggestion is that we are increasing the imprisonment terms — including for the illegal operation of games of fortune and illegal operation of mutual betting — from the existing maximum of three years to one year to eight years,” said Coco Leong Weng, director of the Macau Legal Affairs Bureau.

Macau is trying to rid the region of bad actors — those who purposely violate the Special Administrative Region’s gaming regulations for their financial gain — after Beijing ordered such a crackdown. China President Xi Jinping has stated that the large amount of money moving from the mainland and Hong Kong through Macau’s casinos presents national security risks.

Online Off-Limits

The proposed “Law to Combat Illegal Gambling Crimes” additionally provides a penalty schedule for those who gamble unlawfully via the internet while in Macau.

The bill seeks to imprison a person found guilty of betting online for up to six months. The condition is presumably to target proxy bettors — the practice of a person gambling in person at a Macau casino on behalf of a remote individual who instructs the proxy how to wager. A financial penalty of up to MOP10,000 (US$1,240) is also warranted in the proposed bill.

Nonresidents who run afoul of the “Illegal Gambling Crimes” bill would also face a ban from reentering Macau for a period of five to 10 years. Lawmakers justify the stipulation as a way to expedite the court system and avoid “unnecessary discussion in terms of law enforcement” regarding the region’s gaming industry.

Public Penalties

Walk around Macau, and you’re likely to come across a casual game of mahjong being played among friends. The gambling crimes bill seeks to provide penalties for those casual games that involve betting.

Macau residents found guilty of betting on mahjong games face financial fines ranging from $37 to $620. The penalty would be dependent on the amount being wagered and whether the person committing the crime is a repeat offender.

The statute also proposes allowing law enforcement that suspects the facilitation of illegal gambling inside a business or home to conduct searches between 9 p.m. local time and 7 a.m.

Illegal exploitation of games of chance or betting and mutual betting crimes are typically committed during the nighttime,” the bill reads.

Finally, the statute provides elements of immunity for persons who assist law enforcement in uncovering illegal gambling and gaming-related crimes.

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