To prohibit side betting and online betting

Macau advances bill to combat illegal gambling, targets online betting and enhances law enforcement powers

Reading time 1:50 min

Macau’s Legislative Assembly has successfully passed the initial reading of new legislation aimed at combating illegal gaming activities in the city.

The Law to Combat Illegal Gambling Crimes, introduced last year, seeks to revoke existing legislation associated with crimes related to animal racing, provide clarity on side betting offenses, and explicitly prohibit online betting within Macau, with violations punishable by up to eight years in prison.

The bill is set to undergo evaluation by the Legislative Committee. Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon emphasized the necessity of the new law to facilitate the orderly and sustainable development of the local gaming sector during the bill's presentation on Wednesday.

“The law that we are using was enacted in 1996. Macau’s gaming industry has been developing in an ‘earth-shattering’ manner. The way gaming activities were operated is now so much different from what it was,” Chon was quoted as saying in local media reports.

“This law will ‘evidently’ combat online gambling, which did not occur then. We will need to define such activity as illegal first and then resort to mutual legal assistance from other countries," he added.

The legislation introduces the possibility of undercover operations to address illicit gambling, with details on their application to be confirmed in subsequent meetings.

Recognizing the challenge of investigating and uncovering crimes related to illegal gambling, the bill includes provisions for undercover agents and establishes a protection regime for individuals providing information or collaborating with the police in detecting criminals. Additionally, the legislation permits home searches between 9 pm and 7 am.

“Macau is small, and we all basically know each other. There would be meticulous application in terms of undercover operations,” Chon said. 

Online gambling comes under scrutiny in the authorities' efforts to eradicate illegal activities. However, the Secretary acknowledged the difficulty of preempting all potential offenses with the new legal tool. “Not every case could be busted, but at least there will be measures,” Chon said.

In 2022, two laws pertaining to gambling in casinos were introduced, along with a bill on granting credit for gambling. The decision to upgrade the existing Illegal Gambling Regime, in place for over two decades, further reflects Macau authorities' commitment to updating the gambling hub's regulations.

The legislation not only enhances the criminal framework for illegal gambling offenses but also improves the corresponding criminal and criminal procedural rules, including the extension of deadlines for maximum preventive detention. Moreover, it increases the fines for administrative offenses related to illegal gambling and introduces provisions for enhancement.

Non-residents engaged in these crimes may face expulsion or a ban on entry for five to 10 years. Convicted individuals may also be restricted from visiting specific places, exercising certain professions for up to a decade, and barred from civil service for the same duration.

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