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Macau Casinos See Rise in Suspicious Transaction Reports

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Macau has witnessed a staggering 169.6% increase in suspicious transaction reports (STR) from its casino industry during the first three quarters of 2023 compared to the same period last year. This is according to new data released by the special administrative region's (SAR) Financial Intelligence Office (FIO).

Macau Battling Casino-Related Crime

The numbers tell a compelling story, with 2,335 STRs reported by casinos, constituting a significant 73.5% of all suspicious transactions documented in the city. In stark contrast, during the initial nine months of 2022, the figure stood at a comparatively modest 866 STRs.

Related: Suspicious Transaction Reports Surge in Macau's Gaming Sector

Macau's stringent financial monitoring regulations require casinos to report any transaction of MOP500,000 (US$61,950) or above to the local government. However, these reports don't automatically imply suspicion; rather, they serve as a mechanism for vigilance in financial activities within the city.

The FIO received a total of 3,178 STRs during the first three quarters of 2023, reflecting an alarming 89.5% surge compared to the same period in the prior year, which saw 1,677 reports.

The increase is directly linked to the return of gambling to Macau. During the first nine months of 2022, travel was still limited due to COVID-19 countermeasures, but 2023 saw a resurgence of visitation. For the first three quarters of the year, gross gaming revenue jumped by more than 305% compared to last year, reaching just over $16 billion.

Casinos Not Alone

The "financial institutions and insurance companies" sector experienced a marginal rise in flagged transactions, with the latest reporting period documenting 617 cases, up from 611 a year earlier. However, the proportion of these flagged transactions relative to the overall STRs witnessed a significant shift.

During the first nine months of 2023, the financial sector's flagged transactions represented 19.4% of the total, marking a stark decline from the 36.5% observed in the same sector a year ago. This change indicates a diversification in the types of transactions that raise suspicions, suggesting that the landscape of financial monitoring in Macau is evolving.

The surge in suspicious transactions prompts a critical examination of the financial mechanisms in place and their effectiveness. Authorities may scrutinize the heightened reporting from the casino sector, aiming to understand the underlying factors contributing to this substantial uptick. As Macau navigates this surge in suspicious transactions, the FIO remains vigilant in its pursuit of ensuring the integrity of the region's financial system.

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