The government has been cracking down on illegal online gambling and will continue to do so, resulting in over 300 websites being shut down between 2016 and last year, Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) Director Paulo Martins Chan said on Tuesday.
Chan pointed out that many of the now defunct websites had illegally used the name of Macau.
Chan’s bureau, the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) and the Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming (ISCG) at University of Macau (UM) co-organised a press conference on Tuesday at Macau Tower about this year’s responsible gaming promotions, themed “Gambling is Not Business, Stay in Control”.
It was attended by 150 representatives from the government, gaming sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media.
Chan noted that his bureau has been promoting the prevention of problem gambling by organising a wide range of activities over the past decade, adding that awareness of responsible gambling among residents increased significantly from 16.2 per cent to 63.7 per cent between 2009 and 2017.
Chan underlined that his bureau, the city’s six gaming operators and several NGOs have joined forces to organise a string of events from this month until the end of the year, such as a family day for casino employees, a banquet and an interactive mobile game, with the aim of fostering “correct” gaming behaviour and values among tourists and locals alike.
Chan also told the media on the sidelines of the press conference that his bureau was keeping a close eye on illegal online gambling issues, adding that it has cooperated with internet network operators in mainland China and other regions in tracking over 500 illegal gaming websites.
According to the Macau Post Daily, more than 300 were shut down over the past three years, Chan pointed out, adding that the Judiciary Police (PJ) took over the task of tackling the illegal online gaming issue last year.
Responding to media questions about the recent online gambling row involving local junket operator Suncity, Chan reconfirmed that his bureau held meetings with senior casino executives earlier this month, warning them that they must supervise the junket operators working with them and remind them of the need to obey all legal norms.
Chan also said that Suncity was not under investigation.
Chan also said his bureau had inspected seven casinos and 25 VIP rooms recently, but so far no illegal operations had been found, adding that any activities related to online gambling or the placing of bets by phone in Macau are illegal.
An investigative report earlier this month, the state-owned Economic Information Daily, which is owned by the national Xinhua News Agency, accused Suncity of running a large-scale illegal online gambling business. The article was widely quoted by the local, regional and overseas media. The newspaper is known for its in-depth reports.
Suncity responded to the report last week when its chairman Alvin Chau Cheok Wa told the media that his company didn’t operate any online gaming business and that all its operations were permitted under local government regulations.
Suncity is said to be Macau’s number-one junket operator, with a reported market share of around 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, Chan, who previously worked as a public prosecutor, also said his bureau was preparing amendments to the law regulating junket operators, with the aim of imposing stricter requirements on them, such as increasing their registered capital. He said that more information on the proposed changes would be announced in due course.
The proposed amendments would have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly (AL) to take legal effect.