Macau’s large casino resorts “remain vulnerable to terrorist attack despite recent efforts to improve readiness,” says the 2018 edition of a regional security report from specialist consultancy Steve Vickers and Associates Ltd.
The document – “2018 Asia Risk Assessment” – added, referring to Chinese secret societies associated with loan-sharking and other illegal activities: “The involvement of triad societies and organised crime in the gaming sector shows no sign of diminishing – rather, it is institutionalised.”
The Macau government issues licences to the so-called gaming promoters in the Macau casino junket sector – the firms responsible for organising issuance of credit to VIP players and collection of money owed from subsequent losses – only after what it says are background checks on those involved. But the authorities have acknowledged that so-called “collaborators” – agents or sub-agents associated with the junket trade – are not subject to such checks.
One of those linked in media reports as having recently been on the fringes of the Macau junket business is a known criminal: Wan Kuok Koi – also known as ‘Broken Tooth’ – who rose to prominence in the 1990s because of his reputation for violence and his extravagant public image, before being jailed for 15 years in 1999.
Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, stated in a November media briefing that the police services had not so far that year received any intelligence of what he termed “irregularities” in the city’s casinos that could somehow be linked to activity by triads.
In early December, Paulo Martins Chan, director of the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, indicated that the government currently had no plan to adopt a licensing system for Macau’s gaming “collaborators”.
Regarding the potential for terrorist attack at Macau casinos – flagged several times in annual risk assessments by Steve Vickers and Associates – it was announced in the Macau government’s policy address for 2018, presented in November, that simulated “terrorist attacks” would be held this year as part of the training regime for the city’s security forces, namely at the airport and in casino venues.
In October the government had signalled plans for such a drill system and referred to a “gunman attack and arson” that took place in a “neighbouring country” – understood to be a reference to the lone-gunman attack on Resorts World Manila in the Philippines in June – and also referred to the shootings on the Las Vegas Strip in the United States in October. The events claimed in aggregate more than 94 lives, and in the short term caused some damage to the image of those local casino industries, industry commentators said.
Steve Vickers, the chief executive of Steve Vickers and Associates, is a former commander of the Royal Hong Kong Police criminal intelligence bureau, part of Hong Kong’s security apparatus during British administration of that territory.
Mr Vickers told us by email in response to questions from GGRAsia in relation to terror attack risk in Macau, and referring to earlier public debate on his firm’s previous warnings: “We were well and truly pilloried for raising the terror issue. I don’t really understand why, especially given that Macau doesn’t operate in a vacuum and is open to the world. External threats are always possible.”
He added, referring to the Macau government’s pledge to hold an attack drill: “The exercise doesn’t really lower the risk but it certainly boosts the chances of a more effective response by all concerned.”
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”Ramp ups [of new Macau casinos] are taking a little bit longer. The market is somewhat volatile at the moment, but we continue to look at all the opportunities and are still very comfortable that things are starting to move ahead”
Chief executive of MGM China Holdings