Govt bill lacks clear definition of illegal gambling: Chan

2024-04-09 03:15     BY Ginnie Liang    Comment:0

Lawmaker-cum-restaurateur Andrew Chan Chak Mo, who chairs the Legislative Assembly’s 2nd Standing Committee, said yesterday that there is no clear definition of illegal gambling in the government-initiated bill that proposes to raise the penalties for certain illicit gambling activities.

Addressing a press briefing after yesterday’s closed-door meeting reviewing the government’s illegal gambling bill for the first time, Chan quoted some committee members as asking the government to explain if playing mahjong at home or playing poker in a park are regarded as illegal gambling.

The bill, which proposes to establish a new penal law on illicit gambling to replace the current one enacted in 1996 when Macau was still under temporary Portuguese administration, specifically bars the operation of online betting, and clearly defines parallel betting as an illicit gambling activity.

According to gaming industry sources, some of the now defunct junket operators ran untaxed parallel betting (aka side betting) schemes that reduced both the government’s gaming tax receipts and the gross gaming revenues (GGRs) of some of Macau’s gaming concessionaires and sub-concessionaires.

The bill proposes a prison sentence of one to eight years for parallel gambling, also known as gambling under the table.

The bill proposes to extend the maximum period of legally allowed pre-trial detention, which Chan said was due to the fact that it often requires a long period of time for police to investigate suspected illegal gambling, and there was also concern about the destruction of evidence if suspects remanded in custody are released early.

Chan did not elaborate on how long the maximum detention period proposed by the bill is to last.

Therefore, Chan said, extending the legally allowed maximum period of pre-trial detention would have a positive effect on law enforcement in the hopes of controlling illegal gambling and plugging possible loopholes for the healthy development of the gaming industry.

As dog and horse racing concessions have been terminated in Macau, Chan said his committee asked the government why the bill still includes parimutuel betting, but he said he believed that it might be that the government would not rule out the possibility of granting such licences again in the future. 

Lawmaker-cum-restaurateur Andrew Chan Chak Mo (right), who chairs the legislature’s 2nd Standing Committee, talks to reporters after the committee’s closed-door meeting reviewing the government’s illegal gambling bill yesterday, while the committee’s secretary, Lam Lon Wai, looks on. – Photo courtesy of TDM

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