Asian gambling mecca Macau has been rocked by a series of scams, which involve counterfeit chips, taking place at a premier casino resort over the past few days. Since 19 July 2017, the affected venue has been hit with a total loss of HKD600k, or US$76,849. Authorities have not confirmed the exact location, but public broadcaster TDM has asserted its beliefs that everything occurred at Galaxy Macau.
The Judiciary Police, responsible for crime prevention in the casinos of Macau, held a post-event media briefing to keep the public informed. Here they stressed that the quality of the chips was poor – which may have contributed to the success of the scams. The police also did not discount connections between the different fraudulent events.
The most recent counterfeit chip event happened on Saturday 22 July, when 2 male suspects, residents of mainland China, were detained for possessing and distributing fake chips at some of the Baccarat tables that are so popular in Macau. Local press reports have indicated that each suspect was holding a total of 100 fake chips, each chip holding a HKD10,000 value. They were able to use these to make HKD350,000 in genuine chips within 2 hours. They were then detained by casino security.
Scandalous as the event on 22 July was, it seems very likely that it is part of a far more complex scam. The 2 suspects who were taken into custody said they had been promised a reward of an extra HKD150,000, suggesting something more elaborate and sophisticated is at work. Macau’s authorities have since also confirmed that more than 10 people have been identified as being associated with the incident – so it may be very far-reaching indeed.
The Judiciary Police also appear concerned about the potential of a large organised crime effort, raising concerns about the recent spike in gambling-related crimes. According to an official statement that they released, 734 suspected crimes were recorded during the first 5 months of 2017. This included an 11% increase in loan-shark operation-related illegal detentions.
Macau’s gaming industry performance has stabilised since the second half of 2016 and it has shown significant economic recovery. However, the Judiciary Police Director acknowledged this and then added that the gaming-related crime in the region remains serious. Whether any more crimes will be committed before the full extent of the problem is understood, remains to be seen.