China continues to closely monitor where money goes and who spends it, especially if it can be tied to gambling. Intrinsically tied to the policing of the activity is Macau, which has seen an increase in suspicious transactions.
China announced last June that it would intensify its targeted enforcement of cross-border online gambling, and has been relentless in that quest. It has complied with its goal. The country investigated more than 17,000 cases of illegal cross-border gaming in 2021, according to information provided by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).
Increased Scrutiny From All Levels
The coordinated efforts of various departments, including the MPS, were used to monitor online gambling platforms and mobile apps. A particular focus was placed on livestreaming platforms, short videos and forums, as well as online gaming websites.
In its report, the MPS said that it had arrested more than 80,000 suspects under tougher measures to crack down on criminal activity. The ministry removed 2,200 online gambling sites, along with 1,600 illegal payment and underground banks, 930 illegal technical support teams, and 1,500 gambling promotion websites.
The increased attention follows a year in which China saw massive amounts of money move out of the country. Previous reports indicated that the equivalent of $146.5 billion was shipped out of the country via offshore gambling networks and criminal syndicates.
The MPS joined forces with the relevant ministries in order to intensify the enforcement and governance of cross-border gambling. They used multiple tools to successfully eliminate the recruitment and attraction networks for gambling, as well as money laundering, from large, illegal gambling groups.
Macau Continues Oversight of Suspicious Gaming
As the local gambling hub, Macau plays a large role in facilitating China’s efforts. The city’s Financial Intelligence Office (FIO) reported this week that Macau gaming operators filed 9.5% more suspicious transactions reports in 2021 than they did a year earlier.
The number of reports increased from 1,215 in 2020 to 1,330 in 2021. However, that also coincides with an increase in gaming activity, as 2020 saw Macau shut down repeatedly over COVID-19.
Macau’s gross gaming revenue increased 43.7% in full-year 2021. Analysts believe that the improvement was a result of the relaxation of travel rules between Macau and mainland China. The mainland is still the only location with a mostly quarantine-free travel arrangement with the city.
In 2021, Macau’s FIO received 2,435 reports, an increase of 9.5% over the 2,224 from 2020. This mirrors the same rise from the gaming industry.
The FIO recorded 54.6% of its annual total for suspicious transactions from gaming operators last year. This is the same figure as the previous year. Reports from financial institutions and insurance agencies accounted for 32% of the total. This was a small increase from the 30.4% in 2020. Reports from “other institutions” dropped from 15% in 2020 to 12.8%.
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