Gaming stocks suffered steep losses in Hong Kong Thursday after reports that UnionPay, China’s state-backed domestic bank card organization, is stepping up efforts to crack down on illegal payments.
Sentiment on the sector was also hit by news that the Macau government will tighten entry regulations for transit visitors.
Galaxy Entertainment (00027.HK) was down 8.84 percent at HK$54.65 (US$7.05) as of 2:17pm, while Sands China (00027.HK) fell 6.08 percent to HK$51.75, Bloomberg data shows.
UnionPay announced a raft of measures in what it described as a “committed” drive to combat overseas money laundering, capital flight and other illegal bank card use in Macau, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday, citing a UnionPay insider.
The anti-corruption drive launched by President Xi Jinping had taken the problem of payment card transactions to worrying levels. The amount involved in the illicit payment could have been more than 40 billion yuan last year, the report said, citing sources and unnamed analysts.
Officially reported gaming revenue in Macau stood at US$45 billion last year, but an analyst has estimated there was a further US$90 billion unreported, the report said.
Meanwhile, mainland visitors who enter Macau with a third-country visa may only be allowed to stay in the city for three to five days, instead of seven days, Southern Metropolis Daily reported Tuesday, citing police authorities in Macau.
The Macau government is now studying the measure, which is expected to be put in place in July, the report said. The move comes after China’s state television broadcaster CCTV aired an exposé on the increasingly popular method of entering Macau and Hong Kong.
It is said that about 2.1 million visitors enter the gambling enclave with a transit visa to a third country, instead of going through the individual visitor scheme or tour groups.
Macau’s expected new rule is, however, likely to have only a limited impact on the city’s gambling and tourism industry, according to the report.
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