Macau’s Court of First Instance has ruled that Dore Entertainment Co Ltd, an operator of Macau gambling junkets, need not refund two purported cash loans to the company, because of a lack of supporting evidence. The disputed loans – disclosed in two separate court cases – amounted respectively to HKD17 million (US$2.2 million) and HKD32 million.
In a third case, related to a chip deposit lodged with the firm, the court ordered Dore Entertainment to repay a client HKD6 million, plus interest at the legal – i.e., regulated bank – rate.
The rulings were made public by the court in a press release.
The release from Macau’s Court of First Instance mentioned a second situation of an individual claiming to have deposited chips worth HKD9 million with Dore Entertainment. The court cleared the firm from any payment in that fourth case, citing lack of evidence.
The four cases are related to a high-profile 2015 incident of alleged theft of large amounts of Dore Entertainment money by an ex-cage manager from a VIP room at the Wynn Macau casino. At the time, a number of people came forward claiming they had as a result lost money they invested with Dore Entertainment on the promise of higher returns than those offered by regulated banks.
Wynn Macau Ltd – the operator of Wynn Macau – was also named as defendant in the court cases against Dore Entertainment, as the gaming concession holder overseeing the VIP room where the alleged theft took place. But the court held Wynn Macau Ltd bore no responsibility in any of the cases brought before it.
Dore Entertainment never publicly disclosed how much the employee reportedly stole. The firm only stated it ranged from HKD200 million to HKD2.0 billion. Complaints made to the Macau police from those claiming to be investors in the cage operations of Dore Entertainment amounted to at least HKD520 million, according to previous media reports.
In November 2016, Macau’s Court of First Instance ordered the ex-cage manager of Dore Entertainment to repay MOP103 million of funds with which she allegedly absconded, according to a court notice published in local newspapers.
Prior to the Dore Entertainment case, it was common for junket operators in Macau to raise capital for their rolling chip programmes by offering private investors above-market interest rates for their deposits. The capital raised was then used to extend credit to VIP players usually coming from mainland China. The alleged fraud case in Dore Entertainment however scared away some investors, said investment analysts at the time.
Court documents show that plaintiffs alleged Dore Entertainment was offering them an interest rate on deposits of 2 percent per month.
According to Macau’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, only credit institutions “which have been duly constituted and authorised” may accept deposits and other repayable funds from the public. Junkets are excluded from such business, according to the gaming bureau.
“Illegally accepting deposits [from the public] is a criminal activity,” the bureau stated in a September 2015 release following Dore Entertainment’s case.
Over the weekend, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, said that the city’s government needed to signal to local casino junket operators, via fresh legislation and updated regulation, that some activities he termed “irregular” were “strictly prohibited”.
He added, in an interview with radio and television public broadcaster TDM: “For those irregularities, such as illegal deposit taking…, the Macau government has to – through laws and regulations – let the junket operators know that these activities are strictly prohibited.”
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China