Last Sunday, the Macau SAR Government launched a new policy to control the identity of Mainland Chinese using UnionPay cards to withdraw money from the city’s ATMs. Its objectives, according to the official announcement, are to curb money laundering practices and the financing of terrorist activities.
The new ATM policy, however, will not affect the VIP market as much, according to comments by Davis Fong, Associate Professor of Hospitality and Gaming Management at the University of Macau.
“When we look at gambling behaviour, we cannot only look at the mass market. We also have to look at premium mass or VIP. And VIP guests rely heavily upon the junket to provide credit. So the credit they get is not from using UnionPay,” he explained.
According to the official announcement, the measure plans to gradually implement technology for facial recognition and identification card checks in all ATMs in town –labelled ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) – in particular, machines installed within casino premises and surrounding areas.
The initial step will only target UnionPay cards issued by Mainland Chinese banks, whose holders will have to present their ID card and have their identity verified by a facial recognition system installed in the machine.
Speaking to Business Daily, the Monetary Authority of Macau (AMCM) explained that the reason for starting the process with UnionPay relates to “the comparatively high turnover incurred, [while] the exercise will be extended to other bank cards such as Visa and Master at a later stage.”
MMA had not specified the target date to launch the KYC system prior to this story going to press.
The new measure was created because “some people had abused the system; for instance, by using someone else’s card,” Fong notes.
But, in practice, the new policy will still allow Mainland Chinese visitors to use several cards while in Macau as long as they can prove to be the cardholders.
“There is no [local] restriction on how many cards you can carry outside China, and then withdraw money [here]. So, for those people who want to withdraw more money in Macau, they can open more accounts in China, then carry the Union[Pay] card, and shop in Macau, and just withdraw the money as much as they can,” Fong explained.
According to the company, 95 per cent of local Points of Sale (POS) terminals accept UnionPay cards, “basically covering the major tourist destinations and shopping spots in Macau.”
UnionPay launched its network of merchant POS and ATM withdrawal points for Chinese UnionPay cards in Macau in September 2004, the same year Sands Macau – the first casino after the liberalisation of gambling – opened in the city.
Today, UnionPay claims its transactions are accepted by more than 6,000 merchant POS machines and more than 600 ATMs in the city.
UnionPay General Manager for Hong Kong and Macau Liu Heng was unreachable for comment yesterday.