With the Casino Industry in a Crisis Mode, Macau’s Gaming-Related Crime Is in Decline, Too

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Article by : Helen Dec 14, 2020

There are always silver linings to the worst of scenarios. While the coronavirus hit Macau’s economy as a whole and its casino industry in particular hard, the restrictions and shutdowns that aimed to curb the virus’ spread also led to a decline in gaming-related criminal activity.

According to Macau’s Secretariat for Security’s recently published data, the first nine months of 2020 were significantly less stressful for the local law enforcement. For example, pickpocketing cases next to casinos that involved the local police intervention were only a handful – 23 – compared to 148 pickpocketing cases in the same period of time last year. Scams related to the casino industry are also a fraction of last year’s ones – only 60 cases were reported in 9M20, down from 291 cases in the same span of time last year. And, surprisingly enough, no robberies were committed in this period of time – yes, not a single one.

Counterfeiting casino chips, however, remains to be popular among Macau’s fraudulent citizens and visitors. Although only three fake casino chips were found, their total worth was supposed to amount to an equivalent of $2.4 million. It’s worth acknowledging, though, that in 9M19, the local police confiscated a whole total of 189 counterfeit chips. In a not-so-surprising twist, there is still one type of gaming-related criminal activity that was recorded to be on the rise in these trying times – we’re talking about illegal gambling, of course.

Macau’s law enforcement has dealt with 52 illegal gambling operations in 9M20 – that’s 41 more cases than in 9M19. And, frankly, it is understandable: players were left cut off from legal alternatives, so they turned to illegal gambling operations. The latter ones started blooming once their organizers realized the increase in demand. Besides illegal gambling venues, Macau’s law enforcement took action against 97 websites connected to either illicit gambling or fraud in the first eight months of 2020, according to the government’s 2021 Policy Address. The full text of the address also mentions that the gaming-related crime rate reduced by 81.8% compared to the first eight months of 2019 to just 256 cases.

Macau’s casino industry is going through a rough patch, just like many other tourists- and hospitality-focused economies. According to the data recently released by Macau Statistics and Census Service, the third quarter of 2020 was still underwhelming for the casino industry. However, it is a lot more promising than the disastrous 2Q20 stats. The city’s gross gaming revenue in 3Q20 was down by a staggering 92.8% compared to 3Q19. However, it’s not all bad. In comparison with this year’s second quarter, gross gaming revenue is actually up by 53.1%.

Despite this silver lining, the road to full recovery is yet to be finished, with Macau’s gross domestic product reflecting the economy’s struggles. The year-on-year decline for the third quarter’s GDP was 63.8%, par for the course with the second quarter’s GDP 68% lower than in 2Q19. With mainland China having lifted travel restrictions, however, the visitor flow to Macau skyrocketed by more than a thousand percent. Combined with a more successful third quarter (compared to the second one), this may be the foundation for the industry’s recovery.

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