Macau: Government proposes informant system, stringent measures to combat illegal gambling

The Macau government has put forth a legislative proposal aimed at addressing illegal gambling activities through the introduction of an informant system, according to Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong.

Acting as the spokesperson for the Executive Council (ExCo), Cheong unveiled the Combating Illegal Gambling Crime Bill during a press conference on Thursday, Macau Daily Times reported.

While the specific details of the bill have yet to be disclosed publicly, it broadly encompasses all forms of illegal gambling, including sports betting, animal race betting, mah-jongg (a tile-based game), and lotteries. The proposed legislation seeks to incorporate existing laws related to animal racing (Law No 9/96/M) and nullify the Illegal Gambling law (Law No 8/96/M) after its enactment.

Characterizing illegal gambling crimes as “highly evasive of investigation and concealed,” the government’s strategy involves the implementation of an informant or undercover system to combat these activities. Coco Leong, the director of the Legal Affairs Bureau (DSAJ), highlighted the familiarity of such a system, citing its existence in anti-narcotics law. She stressed that the proposed approach aligns with existing practices, the report said.

The bill further suggests that suspects in illegal gambling cases be prohibited from contacting anyone except their lawyers before judicial interrogations. Leong justified this proposal by emphasizing the need to prevent coordinated testimony in cases with organizational elements.

Additionally, the legislation recommends allowing investigative entities to conduct search and seizure operations between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., specifically targeting illegal operations related to gambling, online gambling, and competitive wagers. Leong clarified that investigators would have the authority to enter private locations without the owner’s consent, provided they possess sufficient authorization, such as a court warrant.

The proposed law explicitly prohibits the operation, promotion, and organization of online gambling and competitive wagers, regardless of the location of the associated computer systems or facilities. In response to the Suncity case, Leong clarified that advertising of these practices would not be permitted in Macau, the report said. Both Cheong and Leong asserted that prosecution would only occur in cases involving advertising or luring, and if the operator operates within Macau.

As per the report, the proposed legislation also seeks to outlaw parallel or side betting, with corresponding penalties and detention periods subject to escalation as per the government’s recommendations.