One Macau casino pit manager and three VIP gaming collaborators – people usually associated with junket operations – were arrested by the Judiciary Police at the weekend for their alleged involvement in defrauding a VIP gaming room at a Macau peninsula casino of more than HKD24 million (US$3 million).
On Monday the police gave a press briefing regarding the allegations. Judiciary Police spokesman Ho Chan Nam confirmed to GGRAsia by telephone the substance of the press briefing, which did not identify either the casino or the VIP gaming room where the alleged scam took place, or the employer of the casino pit manager. The spokesman also declined to give those details to us.
According to the media briefing, the pit manager allegedly stole playing cards from a VIP room where he worked and handed the cards to other suspects. It is thought the cards were then tampered with in such a way as to give the people involved in the fraud an unfair advantage were the cards to be used in a game.
It is alleged that the doctored cards were brought back to the VIP room and employed in baccarat games played by one of the suspects; namely one of the VIP collaborators. It was not clear from the press briefing whether the cards in question had been passed through an electronic card shuffler prior to play.
“Every wager that the suspect made… started with more than HKD1 million [staked],” said the Judiciary Police’s Mr Ho. “Then in all the games played with a [single] shoe of cards, they [the suspects] made winnings totalling HKD24,392,500,” the press briefing had been told. The winnings had been generated during approximately half an hour of play, said the Judiciary Police.
“During the gambling, they [the suspects] recorded the bets made in each game. With our initial investigation, there was also allegedly [use] in the games of the illegal ‘multiplier’,” Mr Ho told reporters at the briefing.
The multiplier, as explained by the police, is an illegal practice whereby VIP gaming agents make a secret arrangement with a VIP gambler, so that both parties agree to magnify – by several times – the bet declared on the table. In this manner, the parties avoid on the secret portion of the bet the near 40 percent tax levied by the Macau government on each wager. But such a practice can also expose the VIP agent to potentially greater losses if the player wins; or the player to greater losses if the junket room wins.
The Judiciary Police spokesman noted in the press briefing that the police were still examining how the suspects rigged the cards, and were tracking other suspects not yet in custody.
The alleged fraud was first reported to the Judiciary Police on September 23 by a casino’s security team.
The four suspects already arrested were charged with the crime of fraud involving high-value transactions, and of engaging in illegal gaming practices.
Mr Ho confirmed to GGRAsia that the HKD24-million figure mentioned in relation to the alleged fraud did not include any monies wagered under the “multiplier” arrangement.
In the Macau government’s “mid-term review” of the city’s casino industry – a document published in May – the authorities said they were considering the use of undercover investigators to combat what the report referred to as “side betting”, understood to be a reference to the “multiplier”.
Since the downturn in Macau’s VIP gambling market, which gathered momentum in 2015, the city’s industry has been rocked by a series of six-figure-plus thefts and frauds from junket rooms.
In early September last year, junket operator Dore Entertainment Co Ltd confirmed reports it had allegedly been a victim of internal fraud by a former employee. That VIP gambling promoter confirmed the VIP room concerned was at Wynn Macau, a venue of Wynn Macau Ltd, but did not confirm the amount of money involved.
In January this year, a representative from the gaming operation at L’Arc, a casino hotel on Macau peninsula that uses SJM Holdings Ltd’s gaming licence, complained to the local police it had been the victim of a HKD99.7-million fraud.
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”Given that the blanket casino closure [in Macau due to Typhoon Mangkhut] happened on an all-important weekend day… we expect that somewhere between MOP1.1 billion [US$136.2 million] and MOP1.5 billion in GGR will be lost”
Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia