Macau gaming regulator keeps calm, carries on

Ever since the story broke 10 days ago on Macau’s Suncity junket aggregator being named as a major money-launderer, media attention has been increasing on Macau’s gaming regulator, known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ. The DICJ responded yesterday by announcing it was not investigatingany further the allegations by mainland state-run media that Suncity operates illegal cross-border gambling networks. 

The article by a Xinhua subsidiary had named Suncity boss Alvin Chau as the mastermind of the online-gambling industry, which is apparently targeting mainland customers via online sites based in Southeast Asian countries. The article put a staggering number on the scale of the industry: RMB1 trillion annually.

The DICJ, after a thorough look at the allegations, as well as an interview with Suncity representatives, decided that there was nothing worth investigating further. This was a few days after Chau had held a press conference at which he repeated his company’s denial of the allegations, yet announced that he would henceforth be applying Macau law to all of the company’s overseas operations.

Furthermore, the DICJ said yesterday it had conducted some spot checks of seven major casinos, to see itself if any illegal activity such as online gaming was going on. It found that there was none. 

Meanwhile, the DICJ is also keeping a close eye on developments in facial-recognition technology. Articles from local media had suggested casinos were testing technology that would allow them to identify customers who were more susceptible to gambling bigger amounts. It was a far-fetched insinuation, but the DICJ has clarifiedthat “two to three” casinos were conducting trials of the technology for use in security enhancement. The DICJ reminded the casinos that any attempts to roll out such technology could not violate Macau’s data-privacy laws. 

Actually, all that the casinos are looking at is how to apply artificial intelligence to their existing surveillance systems. Those systems are not, apparently, an invasion of a player’s privacy. They are required, the casinos say, in order to replay video footage in the event of a dispute over a winning payout or, more commonly, over a lost hand’s stake taken away by a dealer. But how this issue unfolds will likely test the DICJ’s governance capabilities further. It’s likely to be an ongoing story. Stay tuned for more.

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