New cryptocurrency

China could test digital yuan in Macau casinos through 2022; gaming hub to attract foreign investors under new scheme

Reading time 1:57 min

Macau watchdogs are expected to double down on digital yuan, according to a Reuters report. Experts believe regulators in the Chinese enclave will force operators to become testbeds for the digital currency, as casino owners prepare to bid for new licenses for the first time in two decades.

Last year, central bank governor Yi Gang suggested China’s new cryptocurrency could be used to fight crime and resolve complex cross-border payments problems, including money laundering. Macau has long been under China’s eye for both issues and, in December, junket operator Suncity’s boss Alvin Chau was arrested over illegal gambling accusations.

The enclave, which heavily relied on the junket market -by arranging transportation, accommodation and credit to gamble for VIP clients- now looks to everyday gamblers for relief in the short term, while most casinos have now closed their junket gaming rooms amid China's crackdown on illegal gaming.

The introduction of digital payments could present a solution for Beijing's plans to have greater oversight of cash flows and customers, further says Reuters. Moreover, Macau also would present an ideal place to test the technology before it is rolled out more widely on the mainland.

Experts also believe the gaming hub could see the introduction of the concept of cashless casinos using traceable funds, in an effort to assuage watchdogs. Australian operator Star Entertainment is reportedly exploring this solution amid a money-laundering claim.

Testing of digital yuan is already underway: pilots have already seen Chinese consumers spend about $10 billion worth of digital yuan. Its usage in Macau casinos, expected to hit during 2022, would present watchdogs many benefits, while operators could be willing to concede, in an effort to prove themselves as team players.

While the deployment of digital yuan remains to be implemented, Beijing has so far introduced a new scheme aimed at attracting foreign investors and boosting Macau’s diversification into financial services. Called the Qualified Foreign Limited Partnership scheme, it comes on the heels of a master plan allowing Macau to govern the economic affairs of neighboring Hengqin.

In an effort to attract more players, the city will not have capital requirements or restrictions on foreign ownership, reports South China Morning Post. Funds set up under the scheme will let foreign investors buy shares in start-ups and unlisted companies, as well as to take part in private placements by listed companies, private equity and venture capital products.

The system was first introduced in 2010, as part of other investment schemes used by China to attract foreign capital. The Macau-Hengqin zone is now the 11th city in the country to introduce the program. Shanghai was the first to launch it, and has since attracted international fund houses including BlackRock, Bridgewater, Vanguard and Fidelity.

According to experts, the introduction of the QFLP scheme in Macau could present a good opportunity for the enclave, by attracting investors from Hong Kong and elsewhere.

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