Mainland, Macao authorities crack down on illegal cross-border gambling

People visit the 11th China (Macao) International Yacht Import and Export Fair held in Macao, south China, Nov. 11, 2021. The yacht fair kicked off here on Thursday.Photo:Xinhua

The Judiciary Police of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government said on Sunday that 11 criminal suspects, including Macao tycoon Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, have been arrested and will be transferred to the local prosecutor’s office for investigation, and some suspects confessed to having set up overseas gambling platforms and committing other illegal acts.

Analysts pointed out that the sentencing will be based on the law in the Chinese mainland, since the gambling platforms targeted and engaged residents from the mainland, while stressing that handling cases like this will prompt Macao to further strengthen supervision of its gaming industry management.

The Macao SAR Government on Saturday said that it had received a notification from Chinese mainland authorities regarding the arrest warrant for Chau, which was issued by the People’s Procuratorate of Wenzhou, in East China’s Zhejiang Province.

The Macao SAR police then brought Chau and other individuals involved in the case to the police station for questioning on Saturday based on evidence found in previous investigations  

Wenzhou police released a statement on Friday, saying that the cross-border gambling criminal syndicate headed by Chau, CEO of Suncity, had recruited more than 12,000 gaming agents and 80,000 members across the Chinese mainland as of July 2020, according to an investigation.

Handling such cases will be beneficial to Macao’s gaming industry as it can hold onto its customers and maintain the unique business model, as local casinos are legally qualified to operate, since some of the customers might otherwise be diverted by illegal online gambling from within the Chinese mainland, Hao Junbo, chief lawyer at the HAO Law Firm in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Hao said that the case also reflects a new potential emerging issue for relevant authorities in the Chinese mainland to further crack down on, as some online gambling platforms may be set up within the mainland and attract mainland residents to gamble, although they were built and managed by overseas servers and people. 

Chau and his team facilitated mainland residents gambling at overseas casinos, established an asset management company in the mainland to help gamblers exchange assets for gambling chips, assisted customers in cross-border capital transfers, and used underground banks to provide fund settlement services for gamblers in order to obtain illegal interests, said Wenzhou police, adding that the amount of money involved posed a potential risk to social order. 

Hao stressed that the gambling industry in Macao should be developed under legal guidance within the region where the business model can be legally operated, and should not expand to the Chinese mainland through the internet as that would violate relevant laws in the mainland. 

Chau’s Suncity has participated in the investment and production of 65 films including Chinese commemorative films – Operation Red Sea and Operation Mekong – and worked closely with film production companies in the Chinese mainland, according to media reports.