Tougher Macau Illegal Gambling Bill Passes First Hurdle

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On Wednesday, Macau’s Legislative Assembly took a significant step forward in the fight against illegal gambling by approving the first reading of the draft “Law to Combat Gambling Crimes.” This legislation, proposed by the city’s authorities, aims to reduce the influence of criminal activities within the gaming industry. The bill received a majority vote of 29 legislators in favor.

Old Laws Get New Life

The proposed law is a much-needed update to Macau’s existing Illegal Gambling Regime, which has been in place for nearly three decades. However, some legal experts have expressed concerns about the bill's effectiveness and clarity.

Related: Stricter Gambling Regulations in Macau the Target of New Legislation

They argue that the proposed legislation does not adequately address issues such as problematic currency exchanges near gaming venues, a matter that has been repeatedly highlighted by both the Financial Intelligence Office and the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.

One of the key components of the proposed law is the introduction of harsher penalties for gambling-related offenses. This includes longer jail sentences and an extended period of “preventive detention” for individuals involved in illegal gambling activities, including under-the-table betting.

Additionally, the bill seeks to ban the operation, promotion, and organization of online gambling and betting activities, regardless of whether the computing systems for such activities are hosted in Macau. This move is aimed at curbing the proliferation of online gambling, which has become a growing concern for authorities.

Change in Final Language Likely

Before the bill was passed, 10 legislators raised questions and concerns about the draft law. Some questioned whether the proposed penalties were proportionate to the seriousness of gambling crimes, while others emphasized the need for undercover investigations by law enforcement agencies.

In response to these concerns, Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon assured that the government is committed to enhancing its investigative methods to effectively combat gambling-related crimes.

Following the first-reading approval, the bill will undergo further examination by one of the assembly's working committees. This committee will review the bill in detail and may propose revisions. Once the committee has issued a report, the bill will return to the full assembly for its second and final reading.

While the bill has cleared its first hurdle, it is important to note that it is still subject to potential revisions and further scrutiny. The concerns raised by some legislators may lead to changes in the bill's language, but it is expected to eventually become law.

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