Posted on: August 23, 2023, 10:51h.
Last updated on: August 23, 2023, 10:57h.
Authorities in Macau have arrested two Chinese nationals who are suspected of flooding Galaxy Macau Casino with bogus chips.
At least six others are being sought in the scam, which is believed to have cost the casino at least HK$5.6 million (US$700K) on August 21, Macau Business reports.
At least 493 counterfeit chips were in circulation in the casino during a two-hour period, each with a value of HK$10,000, Macau's Judiciary Police said during a press conference Wednesday. As many as 804 chips may have been involved in the case, they added, without explaining how they arrived at this figure.
Within the two hours the scam was in operation, its perpetrators engaged in numerous bets and made chip exchanges with 10 unsuspecting gamblers on the casino floor.
Dealer Spots Something Wrong
But the chips were not sophisticated forgeries. An eagle-eyed dealer noticed the surface of some of the chips he received felt slightly rough, police said. On further inspection, it was found they contained no electronic identification technology.
Modern casino chips are embedded with RFID (radio-frequency identification) — chips within chips that make them harder to counterfeit. They emit signals that can be picked up by RFID-reading equipment stationed at gaming tables and the casino cage.
The scammers would have known the bogus chips would be discovered relatively quickly, so the likely plan was to exchange them for as many real ones as possible and cash out before the racket was uncovered.
Police seized 182 counterfeit chips and 19 genuine chips from the two detained men, both of whom are unemployed and from mainland China.
Investigators believe some of the other members of the gang immediately left Macau via the Border Gate checkpoint after fleeing the casino.
But they discovered that some had dumped incriminating evidence in the trash as they made their getaway. A subsequent search at the waste incineration center uncovered over 100 more counterfeit chips with a face value of HK$10,000 each.
The use of phony casino chips has been on the rise in recent years because it has become easier to buy realistic fakes online, often via the dark web.
But the amount chips seized in this case is huge. For comparison, in 2021, Macau authorities said they had found 65 counterfeits with a total value of HK$2 million (US$260K) in the first quarter of the year. This was notable because it surpassed the entire haul for the previous year, albeit a year severely impacted by the pandemic.
The last year wholly unaffected by the pandemic, 2019, yielded 352 fake chips with a total face value of HKD18.5 million (US $ 2.4 million). That's fewer individual chips than the Galaxy haul.
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