Macau ATMs Need Face Time Before Payout to Follow the Money
Chinese bettors withdrawing money from some ATMs in Macau need to do more than punch in their PIN code. According to Bloomberg, they also have to stare into a camera for six seconds so facial-recognition software can verify their identity and help monitor transactions.
China UnionPay’s network is the first to use the software, which will be installed in all the city’s 1,200 cash dispensers. President Xi Jinping’s government is trying to curtail the overseas shifting of currency that helps suppress the value of the yuan and drain capital reserves. The People’s Bank of China imposed controls as the amount of money leaving China last year topped $816 billion, with Macau considered a primary exit used by private citizens and corrupt government officials.
The new ATMs represent the first widespread consumer application of facial-recognition security programs in Greater China, where privacy concerns aren’t debated as vigorously as in the U.S. or Europe. Government censors scrub the internet of content they deem harmful to the populace or the authority of the Communist Party, and Chinese consumers regularly fork over personal information to mobile payment, e-commerce and food-delivery apps on their smartphones.
The rollout in Macau comes as casino revenue posted its largest gain last month in more than three years. Gross gaming receipts in May rose almost 24 percent from a year earlier to 22.7 billion patacas ($2.8 billion). Identifying the firehoses flooding Macau with money is one reason China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange issued a June 2 notice requiring banks and China UnionPay to report every overseas cash withdrawal and card transaction of more than 1,000 yuan, starting in September.
The campaign to halt capital outflows through gambling-related channels has also ensnared foreign casinos who market too aggressively in China where gaming is banned. Earlier this week, more than a dozen employees of Melbourne-based Crown Resorts Ltd. were sentenced to up to ten months jail by a Shanghai court for illegally promoting gambling.
Most of the ATMs in Macau are made by Duluth and the facial-recognition technology would be installed inside existing boxes. Customers first insert a bank card and enter their PIN, and then the machine asks to scan their ID card and take a photo. The Macau Monetary Authority is starting with China UnionPay ATMs because that’s the biggest network in Macau and has the largest transaction amounts. Other payment providers, including Visa and Mastercard, will be required to support the technology in the future, it said without providing a timetable. The costs of retrofitting ATMs will be borne by banks.