Macau eases gambling crackdown concerns after casino shares tumble

Fri Dec 9, 2016 5:48am EST
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By Venus Wu

MACAU (Reuters) - Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, moved on Friday to clarify it had not tightened daily cash withdrawal limits for Chinese gamblers, after fears of a crackdown on illicit money outflows sent shares in casino operators tumbling.

The South China Morning Post, citing a finance industry source, reported late on Thursday that the Monetary Authority of Macau would halve the amount of cash that China UnionPay cardholders can withdraw from automated teller machines (ATMs) in the territory.

The paper said this would mean halving the daily cap for clients of China's largest provider of bank cards to 5,000 patacas ($626).

The Macau authority, however, said it limited withdrawals to 5,000 patacas per transaction, effective Friday, but had not changed its daily limit.

UnionPay's international arm also said it had not changed its policy on overseas cash withdrawals using cards issued on the mainland, adding the daily limit was still 10,000 yuan ($1,450), with an annual cap of 100,000 yuan.

ATM withdrawals are not a major source of cash for most Chinese gamblers, especially its high rollers. Many average players use UnionPay to buy goods, then return them to get a cash refund which they use to gamble.

But the reported change was seen as a signal of concern, alarming investors in a sector still recovering from a long-running anti-graft campaign under President Xi Jinping.

Monthly revenues from Macau have only returned to growth since August, helped by new resorts bringing in casual gamblers.   Continued...

Casinos are seen in a general view of Macau, China October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip