Macau Judiciary Police revealed during a press conference yesterday that roughly HKD280 million (US$35.8 million) in cash has mysteriously disappeared from junket accounts.
Law enforcement detailed that a sub-agent working with multiple junket groups in the world’s richest casino market vanished with nearly $36 million in funds belonging to VIP casino accounts. Macau police did not specify the identity of the alleged criminal sub-agent, nor how many people might be responsible for the crime.
Judiciary Police confirmed the apprehension of two Macau residents in relation to the alleged criminal operation. Their names were not publicized, but police referred to one as a “ringleader.”
Prior to their industry’s crackdown, junket groups in Macau facilitated travel for mainland China’s wealthiest gamblers to the Special Administrative Region (SAR). Sub-agents act as brokers for the junkets, which are barred from directly advertising gambling activities in mainland China.
Sub-agents often collect money directly from clients and facilitate payment between the customer and junket. Sub-agents typically hold vast amounts of cash to be able to loan large sums of gaming credit to junket travelers to gamble with once arriving in Macau.
Suspects Refuse to Cooperate
GGRAsia first reported on the Judiciary Police announcing that almost $36 million in player funds have gone missing. The Asian gaming media outlet said the two suspects in custody have been uncooperative.
The investigation arose after 18 VIP customers told police that they could not locate their sub-agent to schedule withdrawals from their accounts. Since Macau’s junket industry has essentially been forced to cease operating as it has for many years, established VIP players have sought to drain their junket funds.
Prior to China and Macau’s attack on junkets, VIP groups and sub-agents typically offered a 1% to 1.25% interest on account holdings.
The actual casinos could be on the hook for returning the stolen funds, even though the brick-and-mortar operators were never in receipt of the money. A rule passed last year designed to increase a casino’s oversight of a junket’s operations in which it works mandates that casinos can be held responsible in the event of a player account not being returned when requested.
Judiciary did not name which casinos are involved in the theft.
The number of VIP junket groups licensed and operating in Macau dwindles by the way. There were 85 junket organizers at the start of last year. Today, that number is below 40.
Companies one after another are closing shop after Alvin Chau and Levo Chan, two of the biggest names in the junket industry, were accused of running illegal gambling syndicates in the SAR and throughout Asia.
Macau Golden Group, one of the oldest junket businesses in the region, announced this week that it too will permanently shutter. The entity cited “grievous” consequences should it have decided otherwise.
The months ahead will reveal how negatively the ridding of junkets from Macau will have on the local gaming industry. While the VIPs have kept private high-roller rooms bustling for years, casinos have said outside of gaming, such clients aren’t strong revenue generators in other resort areas because they’re typically afforded many perks and comps.
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