China arrests Macau casino chief in crackdown on cross-border gambling

Radio Free Asia
China arrests Macau casino chief in crackdown on cross-border gambling
Wild Casino

Macau's Suncity casino operator has shut down its VIP rooms following the arrest of CEO Alvin Chau on suspicion of cross-border gambling and money-laundering, Reuters reported on Wednesday, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to curb what it sees as a dangerous outflow of capital from mainland China.

The move will slash the number of Macau-based employees of Chau's Suncity Group by a third, the agency quoted two people close to the situation as saying.

The report came after Chau was arrested on Sunday amid an ongoing crackdown on gambling in mainland China, where it is illegal, and on huge amounts of Chinese money flowing into Macau and other gambling hubs -- something that is seen as a national security risk by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Chau and 10 other individuals are being investigated for using Macau as a base to run an online betting platform used by customers in mainland China.

Authorities in the eastern city of Wenzhou have also issued a warrant for Chau's arrest in connection with Suncity's junket operations, which were denounced in CCP-backed media as a threat to public order.

The Wenzhou police department said via its official social media account that a syndicate led by Chau ran a network of 199 shareholder-agents, more than 12,000 agents and more than 80,000 gambler members, according to figures from 2020.

A businessman from a prefecture-level city in Zhejiang, which administers Wenzhou, said organizing gambling trips to Macau was a popular business plan in the area.

"In the prefecture-level city in Zhejiang where I am, some contractors tell me they send around 30 to 50 billion yuan a year to Macau to finance gambling," he said.

He said many of the junket operators and online gambling platforms use shell companies to mask the true nature of their business.

"There are people in these companies who organize others to gamble, but to the outside world, they call it a PR company," he said.

The crackdown comes after the National People's Congress standing committee approved an amendment to the law banning cross-border gambling activities, with the ban taking effect from March 1, 2021.

Supreme People's Procuratorate spokesman Miao Shengming told reporters on Nov. 29 that the number of arrests made in illegal gambling cases rose by 14 percent between January and September this year, compared with the same period in the previous year.

In 2019, Suncity was accused by the Economic Information Daily, which is run by state news agency Xinhua, of engaging in more than one trillion yuan (U.S.$155 billion) worth of online gambling business.

Suncity operate casinos but the property is held by licensed casino operators.

It once ran up to 17 VIP gaming rooms in Macau, which accounted for around half of the Macau gambling VIP market, Reuters reported.

Suncity Group has said that Chau intends to resign, although he was unreachable for comment at the time of writing.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.