Macau: New bill proposes stringent penalties for illegal gambling loans, including prison terms

The Macau government has introduced a bill advocating for a jail term ranging from one to five years for individuals engaged in illegal gambling loans within casino premises. The new bill is an update to Macau’s existing illegal gambling regulations (Law No.8/96/M).

According to the proposed legislation, individuals providing money or other means for gambling with the intent of obtaining financial benefit may face imprisonment for one to five years. In aggravated circumstances, such as demanding an identification document as a guarantee, those found guilty could face imprisonment for two to eight years, Macau Daily Times reported.

The bill also outlines punishments for various gambling-related crimes, including a two to 10-year entry ban into Macau gaming establishments, and expulsion or a ban from entering the Macau SAR for non-residents convicted of such offenses.

Additionally, the legislation addresses individuals involved in these crimes as part of a “secret association or society,” potentially resulting in longer prison sentences. This term is commonly understood in Macau to refer to Chinese criminal groups known as “triads,” considered a crime that might lead to extended jail terms.

The bill further proposes an increase in maximum jail sentences and the permitted duration of preventive detention for gambling crimes, including under-the-table betting via the “multiplier,” as previously discussed in a December briefing by local government officials.

The new regulation arrives at a time when Macau witnessed a record influx of tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday, particularly fueled by a surge in travel demand from mainland China, indicating a potentially lucrative month for casinos in the world’s largest gambling hub.

The city documented approximately 1.08 million visitor arrivals in the first six days of the week-long holiday that commenced on February 10, based on provisional government data. This reflects a 3.7% increase from the corresponding period in 2019 and stands as the highest figure since at least 2017 when daily data for peak seasons became available.