Macau’s Gaming Czar Praised for Increased Anti-Money Laundering Efforts

Posted on: April 8, 2022, 09:23h. 

Last updated on: April 8, 2022, 01:59h.

Macau’s efforts to reduce potential money-laundering activity in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) are apparently working. The city’s gaming regulator received applause this week from the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering for cleaning up Macau’s casino industry.

Adriano Marques Ho
Adriano Marques Ho, the head of Macau’s gaming regulator. Since joining in 2020, he has helped bring new efforts to build up AML policies in the city. (Image: Macao News)

This week, The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APPG) lauded Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ, for its Portuguese acronym). As the group points out, the DICJ has been making substantial improvements in enforcing anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) protocols.

The praise was part of a follow-up report by APPG on Macau’s AML activity. However, the improvements don’t necessarily mean that Macau can’t do more.

Money laundering has long been an issue in the casino industry, a concern highlighted by the scandals involving Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment in Australia. However, some areas have been more prone to potential issues than others, and all regions face a constant battle to curb the activity.

Macau Reducing Potential for Money Laundering

It was only an indication, according to GGRAsia, that the DICJ is more proactive. However, the regulator retained the same rating in terms of technical compliance with AML/CFT efforts that it had in 2019.

The DICJ, since that last report, established a new division with specific “AML/CFT supervision and compliance power,” according to Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office (GIF, for its Portuguese acronym). This new division, in part, facilitated the APPG’s response.

Last September, a swearing-in ceremony by the DICJ introduced 14 new managers to the group. These new divisional or departmental chiefs are responsible for legal matters, licensing, auditing, and compliance. They also oversee the regulation of the city’s gaming concessionaires and junkets and any investigations that may be necessary.

Macau Continues to Tweak AML Policies

The DICJ and the GIF have worked diligently to crack down on AML/CFT issues in Macau. The GIF told GGRAsia that the two have constantly contacted gaming operators. The goal is to “refine” how they report suspicious activity. The object is to “capture more precisely, suspicious transactions.”

There were 1,330 questionable activity reports filed last year, an increase of 9.5% over the previous year. A number of these reportedly involved junkets. However, the GIF didn’t specify how many.

It isn’t surprising that the figure dropped in 2020. Macau was dealing with COVID-19 and a virtual shutdown of its gambling activity. However, in 2019, the figure was 1,913, which means 2021 was a much better year.

Through continuous outreach and meetings, the quality of the suspicious transaction reports reported by the gaming sector has shown steady improvement over the past decade,” Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office told GGRAsia.

The number of reports dropped, but the type of activity remained the same. The three most common triggers were irregular cash withdrawals, deposits with non-verifiable sources of funds, and chip conversion after no or minimal gambling.

The GIF recognized that more needs to be done going forward. For example, due diligence to protocols and reporting guidelines must pick up. In addition, there needs to be better monitoring of ongoing transactions.