Galaxy Macau Flooded with Fake Chips, Two Arrested

Posted on: August 23, 2023, 10:51h. 

Last updated on: August 23, 2023, 05:43h.

Authorities in Macau have arrested two Chinese nationals who are suspected of flooding Galaxy Macau Casino with bogus chips.

Galaxy Macau, fake chips
Scammers managed to introduce a massive amount of counterfeit chips into the Galaxy Macau, above, in the space of just two hours before a dealer smelled a rat. (Image: Galaxy Macau)

At least six others are being sought in the scam, which is believed to have cost the casino at least HK$5.6 million (US$700K) on August 21, Macau Business reports.

At least 493 counterfeit chips were circulated in the casino during two hours, each with a value of HK$10,000, Macau’s Judiciary Police said during a press conference Wednesday. They added that as many as 804 chips may have been involved in the case without explaining how they arrived at this figure.

Within the two hours, the scam was in operation, its perpetrators engaged in numerous bets and made chip exchanges with 10 unsuspecting gamblers on the casino floor.

Electronic ID Technology 

The fake chips weren’t sophisticated forgeries. An eagle-eyed dealer noticed the surface of some of the chips he received felt slightly rough, police said. On further inspection, it was found they contained no electronic identification technology.

Modern casino chips are embedded with RFID (radio-frequency identification) — chips within chips that make them harder to counterfeit. They emit signals that can be picked up by RFID-reading equipment stationed at gaming tables and the casino cage.

The scammers would have known the bogus chips would be discovered relatively quickly, so the likely plan was to exchange them for as many real ones as possible and cash out before the racket was uncovered.  

Police seized 182 counterfeit chips and 19 genuine chips from the two detained men, both of whom are unemployed and from mainland China.

Investigators believe some of the other members of the gang immediately left Macau via the Border Gate checkpoint after fleeing the casino. They discovered that some of the suspects dumped incriminating evidence in the trash as they made their getaway. A subsequent search at the waste incineration center uncovered more than 100 more counterfeit chips with a face value of HK$10,000 each.

Phony Chip Haul

Phony casino chips have been on the rise in recent years. That’s because it has become easier to buy realistic fakes online, often via the dark web.

The amount of chips seized in this case is huge. For comparison, in 2021, Macau authorities said they found 65 counterfeits with a total value of HK$2 million (US$260K) in the year’s first quarter. This was notable because it surpassed the entire haul for the previous year, albeit a year severely impacted by the pandemic.

The last year wholly unaffected by the pandemic, 2019, yielded 352 fake chips with a total face value of HKD18.5 million (US $ 2.4 million). That’s fewer individual chips than were confiscated in the Galaxy haul.