Macau to Introduce Tougher Gambling Laws

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Macau continues its years-long reform of its gambling ecosystem. The latest initiatives come through a series of measures designed to crack down on illegal gambling and increase the penalties for violations of an updated definition of what constitutes illicit gambling.

No More Online Betting

During a press conference at government headquarters, André Cheong Weng Chon, the Secretary for Administration and Justice and spokesperson for Macau's Executive Council, revealed the government's completion of a drafted bill aimed at increasing penalties for specific illicit gambling activities. The bill seeks to explicitly prohibit online betting operations and provide a clear definition of parallel betting as an illicit gambling activity, replacing the existing law from 1996.

Related: Gaming-Related Crime on the Rise in Macau

Cheong emphasized the government's commitment to enhancing efforts against various illicit gambling crimes. The proposed bill addresses concerns related to parallel betting, also known as under-the-table betting, which had been exploited by some now-defunct junket operators, impacting tax revenues and gross gaming revenues for Macau's gaming operators.

The bill explicitly prohibits the operation, promotion and organization of online gambling activities, irrespective of the location of IT systems and equipment. It also suggests an increase in penalties for specific illicit gambling offenses.

Currently, according to Macau's laws, operating unauthorized gambling activities can lead to a maximum prison term of three years. The new bill proposes a revised penalty ranging from one to eight years of imprisonment.

Macau Police Gain More Control

To tackle illicit gambling activities often conducted during nighttime, the bill recommends allowing the police to conduct searches in private homes between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. during investigations. This is a departure from the current Penal Procedures Code, which restricts such searches without consent during those hours.

Leong Weng In, Director of the Legal Affairs Bureau, highlighted the need for legal amendments to criminalize illegal currency exchange activities, stating that the current conditions are not conducive to such measures. The government's efforts are poised to modernize and strengthen its regulatory framework to combat evolving challenges in the gambling industry, ensuring a more robust and effective approach to law enforcement.

The proposed bill will undergo debate, review and voting in the Legislative Assembly. However, it isn't likely to find resistance there and could be approved as law within the next couple of months.

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