Cash declaration measures on the horizon

    The Macau government is planning to introduce a bill that would require visitors to disclose cash holdings of more than MOP 120,000 (US$15,000) at entry, local media reports.

    Executive Council spokesman Leong Heng Teng said the measure would help to prevent money-laundering activities in the city. He made the comments when introducing the bill at a press conference at Government Headquarters on Thursday.

    According to Leong, the bill would see any inbound travelers carrying cash or negotiable instruments worth more than MOP120,000 needing to declare them at a separate declaration channel at customs.

    According to a report from Bloomberg, Macau’s casino shares dropped following the news.

    Sands China Ltd. fell 5.5 percent to HK$35.90, while Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. dropped 5.1 percent. Wynn Macau Ltd. slipped 3.9 percent.

    “The report is throwing cold water on reviving sentiment for the casino industry,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International, who was quoted by the news outlet. “After a big rally of late, gaming stocks were in overbought territory anyways.”

    Analysts however say the drop in shares was a “knee-jerk reaction”, and the measures would not have any meaningful effect on gaming revenue.

    “High-end players most commonly pay commissions to pawnshops to withdraw cash in Macau, or they use underground banks to wire money; therefore, they do not necessarily have to risk bringing cash across the border,” said Chelsea Tam at MorningStar Asia Limited.

    “The proposed bill is a result of recommendations by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, to improve Macau’s anti-money-laundering measures, and did not originate from the Macau government or the central government with the aim of targeting capital outflow to Macau,” she added.

    DS Kim, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong said the move  “does not have anything to do with China’s capital control, nor does it target the gaming industry.”

    On the other hand, Michael Ting, an analyst at CIMB Group Holdings Ltd., said the measure could be another sign of China’s clamp down on capital controls.

    “The risk is that this could be just the beginning and there could be more measures going forward,” he said.