Macau Casino Scam Doctored Gaming Chips, Inflated Value Tenfold

Posted on: January 23, 2024, 04:31h. 

Last updated on: January 24, 2024, 08:40h.

An unnamed Macau casino has taken an approximate US$200K hit after scammers were able to tamper with gaming chips to alter their denominations.

Macau casino, chip scam
Macau chip scammers managed to alter low-denomination chips so that they looked like high-roller chips. They stung the casino for $200k before the scheme was uncovered. (Image: Bloomberg)

Macau’s Judiciary Police (PJ) said Tuesday the scheme involved the modification of regular house HKD100 (US$13) chips so that they appeared to have a face value of HKD10,000 ($1,300) each. Investigators seized a total of 33 doctored chips and arrested five suspects, all mainland Chinese.

Three others fled to the mainland, where they were arrested. At least one suspect remains at large, police said.

PJ spokesperson Lei Hon Nei didn’t detail the precise nature of the modifications other than that the group exploited the similarity of color between the HKD100 and HKD10,000 chips.

Scheme Unravels

Lei said the chips were embedded with RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, making them harder to counterfeit. These tags emit signals that can be detected by RFID-reading equipment stationed at gaming tables and the casino cage.

Some of the chips were used by four of the suspects at baccarat tables before being cashed out at around 10:30 p.m., police said. The scam was uncovered when an eagle-eyed dealer handling a pile of HKD10,000 chips noticed some looked slightly different.

Another suspect was arrested when he tried to exchange three doctored chips for cash at the casino cage, police said.

Fake Chip Flood

Cases of fraudulent casino chips have been on the rise in recent years, as it has become easier to buy realistic fakes online, often via the dark web.

In August last year, Macau authorities arrested two Chinese nationals on suspicion of flooding the Galaxy Macau with fakes. At least 493 counterfeit chips were circulated in the casino in a two-hour gambling spree, each with a value of HK$10,000.

That’s more than the total number of fake chips seized across Macau’s casino sector in 2019, the last year wholly unaffected by the pandemic.

Within that two-hour window, suspects engaged in numerous bets and made chip exchanges with 10 unsuspecting gamblers on the casino floor.

It’s believed the scam cost the casino at least HK$5.6 million (US$700K).