January 30, 2022
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Police in Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, said on Sunday they had arrested two men for alleged illegal gambling and money laundering, as authorities step up a crackdown on illicit capital outflows from the Chinese mainland.
“One of the men involved was responsible for operating an illegal gambling syndicate while the other offered assistance,” the police said in a statement on their official Wechat account, without naming either man.
Local media said one was Levo Chan, chairman of Tak Chun Group, Macau’s second-biggest junket operator. Tak Chun did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to reach Chan separately.
Analysts said the arrests herald a new era of zero tolerance for the promotion of gambling in China, where all forms of gambling are illegal, and officials seek to cut off outflows of funds.
Junket operators have traditionally offered easy credit for mainland Chinese high rollers who play in Beijing-ruled Macau’s casinos and collect on their debts using underground financing channels, executives say.
The arrests announced on Sunday come two months after Macau authorities arrested the high-profile head of Suncity junket, Alvin Chau https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-wenzhou-issues-arrest-warrant-macau-junket-mogul-chau-2021-11-27.
Now nearly nonexistent, the opaque VIP industry made up more than two-thirds of Macau’s gambling revenue until just a few years ago, according to official data.
Industry publication GGR Asia cited a Sunday police briefing that identified those arrested as a 49-year-old surnamed Chan and a 34-year-old surnamed Choi.
Police said the recent arrests were linked to the Suncity case in November as the two groups worked together, engaging in “illicit and criminal activities”.
Suncity and Tak Chun had been the top two junket firms in Macau, employing thousands, but data from Macau’s gambling regulator shows the number of licensed junkets has shrunk 46% over the past 12 months.
Macau’s VIP industry had shrunk to a quarter of overall gaming revenue in the last quarter of 2021, with the junket business constricted by China’s crackdown on capital outflows and coronavirus curbs on travel according to official data.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard)