Macau Approves Currency Declaration Bill, Forcing Travelers to Reveal How Much Cash They’re Carrying

Posted on: June 4, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2017, 01:52h.

A rumored Macau currency declaration bill is no longer just hearsay, after the city’s legislative chamber approved a law that will force incoming visitors to reveal to customs agents how much money they’re bringing with them.

Macau currency declaration customs
Macau currency declarations are coming to the city’s international airport this fall. (Image: Flight Report)

The statute passed by the 33 members of the Macau Legislative Assembly mandates travelers to complete a declaration form should they be in possession of MOP120,000 (roughly $15,000) or more in currency or other “negotiable monetary instruments” like travelers cheques.

Requiring outsiders to declare how much cash they have on themselves is thought to be a way to impede the alleged laundering of money through the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic.

For those who were planning to travel to the gaming enclave with more than $15,000 in cold hard cash, you remain in luck and free of questions from security officials until the new bill is implemented on November 1, 2017.

Solution? Or Appeasing China?

Asking arrivers if they are holding $15,000 will theoretically make it harder for those looking to launder money. What it won’t do, however, is suppress VIP junkets catering to high rollers on the mainland.

China President Xi Jinping is on an anti-corruption crusade, and part of that overall mission is keeping money inside the country’s borders. Those making just $13,000 or more annually give 45 percent of their wages to the federal government.

Wealthy Chinese citizens, who are even more heavily taxed in the communist nation, have been thought to be using Macau to lessen their tax burdens. But getting one’s finances to Macau, a financial tax haven, isn’t easy, nor legal for Chinese citizens. That’s where VIP touring companies come into play.

Customers can buy luxury trips through the junkets for tens of thousands of dollars. After paying in the mainland, they arrive at their chosen Macau casino with the same financial equivalent in “free” gaming chips or credit to play with. Once they’re finished, they cash out, and the money is now in Macau.

The city is also implementing facial recognition ATM machines to crackdown on proxy betting on gaming floors.

Good News for Casinos

The city’s six major integrated resort operators, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, MGM, Melco, SJM, and Galaxy, aren’t expected to be impacted from the Macau currency declaration protocol. It will have little bearing, if any, on VIP operators, and also won’t stop someone from bringing $15,001 into the region.

The Macau Customs Service will hold declaration paperwork for five years, but won’t disrupt or stop anyone’s travel plans who’s carrying over the threshold in cash.

Stock prices for the big six are on a strong rebound in recent months, despite ongoing uncertainty in Macau. Market analysts remain split, with bulls and bears scrambling to discover which side has it right.

But Jinping has shown signs of softening his anti-corruption crusade recently.

“Over the past year, the anti-corruption campaign appears to be moderating,” investment brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein stated last month. “However, in March and April 2017, we noticed a small spike in anti-corruption related activity.”