Macau Police Break Up Casino Proxy Betting Operation
This weekend, Macau authorities carried out an operation to dismantle an illegal proxy betting ring in the Chinese gambling hub.
The practice of proxy betting, or telebetting, has been outlawed in Macau since May 2016. It has been used primarily as a way for Chinese mainland gamblers to wager at Macau’s high-stakes tables via surrogates. These surrogates typically play at the table while on the phone with their clients, exchanging updated information and bets during several rounds of blackjack, poker hands, or roulette spins.
The first steps taken to put a stop to the practice involved banning the use of phones at Macau’s casino tables. However, within months junket operators and surrogates participating in proxy betting practices were discovered to have circumvented these efforts by using wireless communication devices concealed as earpieces beneath a participant’s long hairstyle.
It is estimated that proxy betting accounts for as much as 10% of total revenues derived from VIP players at Macau’s casinos, though the numbers have never fully been reviewed. In the Philippines, where the practice is also very popular, proxy betting is estimated to account for as much as half of all VIP gaming revenues.
Last week, the Macau Judiciary Police Force receive a tip that such practices were being utilized in the Nam Van district of Macau. The total arrests during the operation included seven individuals, each of which now face charges of proxy betting via an online chat app called WeChat. Allegedly, the social messaging platform was used to communicate in real-time to exchange information between remote players and participants at the casino tables. The Macau Casino which played host to the activities remains unidentified.
Tam Wen Keong, a Macau police spokesman, told local media on Thursday that as many as 40 gamblers utilized the ring’s services on a daily basis to place wagers remotely. Each player was allegedly recruited to the service through a dedicated WeChat group.
Operations were short-lived for the participants as it is believed the Proxy betting ring had only been active for about a month. However, in that short time it is estimated that as much as $1.3 million had been entertained in wagers by the group. The group allegedly placed a minimum bet requirement for its services at $38, while there was no ceiling in regard to how high the bets could reach.
According to an interview conducted by international gaming publication GGRAsia, Tam revealed the operation had two or three of its members physically in place at undisclosed casinos, while working in tandem with remote players via the WeChat application. Devices seized in the operation revealed that these remote gamblers typically had a window of one minute to make their decisions at the tables once the relevant information had been relayed by those on the casino floor.
While it remains unclear as to whether or not Macau’s junket operators had been participating in such remote betting rings, Tam said officers were looking into the possibility.
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