Macau Gaming-Related Crime up in 2021, But Could Fall as Junkets Removed

Posted on: January 28, 2022, 09:54h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2022, 01:20h.

Crimes linked to the gaming industry in Macau increased last year from 2020 figures. However, changes coming to operators and junkets could lead to a decline later this year.

Macau Judicial Police
Macau Judicial Police on patrol in the streets. The law enforcement division has continued to increase attention to potential loansharking. But 2021 saw a slight increase in the activity. (Image:

A report presented by Macau’s Judicial Police on Thursday indicates that Macau saw a year-on-year increase of 23.2% in “gaming-related” crimes last year. This follows a return of the city’s casinos, plagued by shutdowns and border closures throughout 2020.

In 2020, there were 1,114 crimes that fell into this category. Last year, the number increased to 1,372. As border and travel restrictions were relaxed, more traffic began to flow into the city. 30% more, which helped fuel the increase in crime.

Dissecting the different types of activity that Macau authorities dub gaming-related, loansharking almost didn’t budge. There were 72 cases in 2020, and 71 last year.

Unlawful detentions dropped to 27 from 32 between the two years. These detentions are often linked to loan sharks. Individuals who cannot repay their loans are taken “hostage” until they or their families can pay the debt.

As a result of the reduction, the Judiciary Police asserted that their efforts are paying off. There is less loansharking taking place due to increased attention by the police. However, it added that “the illegal activities of money exchange continue to negatively impact casinos and security in their surroundings.”

Loansharking Gang Busted as 2021 Comes to a Close

In spite of the increased police attention, loansharking is still finding a way to seep into Macau’s consumer market. The Judiciary Police arrested 50 people last December as the year wrapped up.

The arrests were the result of a joint operation between the local police and officials in mainland China. The 50 individuals were all tied to the same gang that was providing illegal loans to VIP gamblers. The group reportedly earned over $538,860 through the loans, according to local public broadcaster TDM.

Some of that money came from the exorbitant rates the loan sharks charge. Some of it was also from additional fees tacked on when loan recipients couldn’t pay.

Those who failed to pay were kidnapped and threatened. Per TDM’s report, “[The loan sharks] would videotape the process and send videos to the victim’s family and friends to force and coerce them to pay the debt. They would even force the victims to drink dirty water or act in a way to incite them to panic and record videos to coerce the debtors to pay the debt.”

VIP Gamblers Losing Their Macau Connection

In many instances, VIP gamblers have used junkets to facilitate their activity in Macau. In other instances, loan sharks have enticed gamblers to feel like VIPs, offering loans the individuals could never afford. The connection between junkets and VIP gambling in Macau is now only tenuous, at best.

After the Suncity Group debacle, Macau has drawn a line in the sand with junkets. Where there were 85 a year ago, there are now only 46 that have been approved for a license. The number has declined repeatedly for the past eight years.

Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported this week that there are 29 junkets that are waiting for licenses renewals. The application process for all of them is still in the works, but there’s likely only a 50-50 chance they’ll be approved.

Wynn Macau, Melco Resorts, and Galaxy Entertainment have already stopped working with junkets. The remaining three casino operators are still weighing their options. However, they’re likely to follow suit.

With the massive decrease in junkets and the closure of VIP gaming rooms, loan sharks are going to have less opportunity to dupe gamblers. That, of course, is China’s goal, and it seems to be achieving it.