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Macao’s proposed gambling crimes law doesn’t go far enough, say lawyers

They say the bill contains too many grey areas, and that obvious targets, like properly criminalising problematic currency exchanges, have been overlooked.

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A new law drafted to minimise the gaming industry’s exposure to criminal influence has some local lawyers suggesting that it is a wasted opportunity in its current form, GGR Asia reports. 

Lawyers Carlos Coelho and Francisco Leitão, of local firm MdME, told the specialist gaming publication that the proposed Law to Combat Gambling Crimes failed to address problematic currency exchanges taking place on or near gaming premises – an issue repeatedly brought up by both the Financial Intelligence Office and Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.

“From a legislative standpoint it would be doable to criminalise such conduct, and the best opportunity to do so would be with the [draft] law,” but “it seems that was not the government position,” they said in a joint statement.

They also wanted more clarity in the bill’s wording around sports betting, which they viewed as at risk of being lumped in with types of gambling that will be illegal if the law passes. The latter includes the operation, promotion and organisation of games of fortune and mutual betting carried out online.

[See more: A new illegal gambling law will impose harsher penalties]

Meanwhile, António Lobo Vilela, a lawyer and former adviser to Macao’s government on gaming-related matters, told GGR “I believe a golden opportunity has been missed to pass a modern law on illicit gambling in line with the importance of Macao’s gambling sector.”

He added: “The essence of a criminal law is not only to repress crimes, but also to foster some preventive measures.” 

The proposed Law to Combat Gambling Crimes will undergo its first reading at the Legislative Assembly tomorrow. It offers an update to the almost three-decades-old Illegal Gambling Regime.

The law is part of the government’s efforts to crack down on illicit gaming in the city, and comes in the wake of the high-profile criminal convictions of junket operators Alvin Chau and Levo Chan

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