Fake chips on the rise at Macau casinos

By Charlotte Lee Updated
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The use of fake casino chips in Macau has soared.

Authorities in Macau have found illegitimate chips in the first quarter of 2021 valued at more than the entire collection of 2020 fake chips.

The Office of the Secretary for Security found the face value of fake chips to March 31 was US$257,582, a 25 per cent increase compared to the past 12 months.

In all, around 65 counterfeits were detected, 15 of which were high denomination chips, which suggests serious fraud had at least been attempted.

The report declines to mention which casinos were affected and whether the fraudsters had been successful in attempting to exchange the chips for cash.

It’s difficult to assess the significance of statistics taken from a period when Macau’s casino sector was so deeply impacted by the pandemic.

While Macau is experiencing a rebound, it was under severe travel restrictions for much of 2020 and visitor numbers were decimated.

It’s clear though that the use of fake chips is on the rise, in spite of technological improvements that make them more difficult to counterfeit.

In January, Macau police reported that two scammers had successfully cashed out US$24,500 before an unnamed casino in the city’s central district spotted the fakes.

According to police, the chips were high-quality forgeries and bore the logo of SJM Holdings.

Owned by the Ho family, SJM is one of Macau’s six major licensees, or concessionaires, operating some 19 casinos in the city.

One of the scammers was arrested.

The detained suspect, a 51-year-old male from mainland China, admitted he and his accomplice had bought 150 counterfeit chips online for US$9,292.

Each chip had a face value of US$644.

Police said the suspects gambled with the fake chips at several gaming tables in an attempt to exchange them for real ones before heading to the cage to cash out.

Four honest gamblers unwittingly received bogus chips from the suspects.

Modern casino chips are embedded with radio frequency identification, chips within chips that make them harder to forge.

They emit signals that can be read by RFID-reading equipment stationed at gaming tables and the casino cage.

Counterfeiters have been known to take RFID emitters from low denomination chips and embed them in high denomination forgeries.

Warnings issued after fake Sands Macao website surfaces 

A Macau casino operator has distanced itself from an online gambling website that is using its brand.

The fraudulent site operates under the “Sands Macao” name and is based out of Guangdong Province.

“Sands Online Gambling Corp is using our company’s property name and trademarks without our permission and in breach of the law,” Sands China said, and noted that the company “does not engage in online gambling activities of any kind and vigorously pursues all reports of trademark infringement.”

“All websites purporting to offer online gaming and using our brands are fake and should be reported to the relevant authorities immediately.”

The statement was released after Guangdong police began investigating two cases of online gambling business, one of which is the Sands Macao that illegitimately exploited the brand name and is said to be active since 2020.

According to the Guangdong public security department, the group recruited mainland China residents and sent them abroad to develop online gambling games and engage in customer service, thus facilitating cross-border gambling involving players from the mainland.

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