U.S.-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp has confirmed to GGRAsia it has responded to inquiries by the Nevada Gaming Control Board – a gaming regulator in that U.S. state – into allegations made in a Reuters news story that the firm had failed to prevent some high-stakes Chinese gamblers from playing anonymously in Las Vegas.
Ron Reese, a spokesman for Las Vegas Sands, said in an email that the company had nothing to add to statements already provided to Reuters.
An initial story tagged “Reuters Investigates”, filed on September 30, alleged that two Chinese women – reportedly being pursued by Clark County prosecutors for a combined gambling debt of US$6.4 million, incurred via play at the Venetian Las Vegas and the neighbouring Palazzo (jointly pictured) – were in fact what Reuters termed “shills” or proxies for other Chinese gamblers that wished to play anonymously. The report added that the two women had allegedly been recruited with the cooperation of Las Vegas Sands personnel.
The claims were made by lawyers representing the women in the prosecution proceedings. In the state of Nevada, non-payment of so-called ‘casino markers’ – i.e., house-issued credit for gambling – is a criminal as well as civil offence, provided it can be proven the marker was lawfully issued.
The alleged role of the women – named in the original story as Xiufei Yang and Meie Sun and described as local housekeepers – as fronts for others, had the potential to cause Las Vegas Sands to be in violation of U.S. anti-money laundering rules that bar people from gambling anonymously in the nation’s casinos, said the Reuters investigation.
The charges against the two women have meanwhile been dropped, according to Reuters.
In a follow-up story carrying Tuesday’s date, Reuters reported the Nevada Gaming Control Board – which has an enforcement division responsible for, among other things, ensuring laws and regulations pertaining to gambling in Nevada are adhered to – was investigating the claims made by the defence lawyers and that were outlined in the original Reuters piece.
When asked by Reuters for comment on the investigation, Mr Reese confirmed the Control Board had “made inquiries related to this matter and we’ve responded in a timely and transparent manner, as we always do”.
In August 2013, it was announced that Las Vegas Sands had reached a deal with U.S. federal prosecutors to pay approximately US$47 million to the U.S. government in order to avoid criminal charges over alleged money laundering activities involving Chinese-Mexican Zhenli Ye Gon. It had been alleged the businessman transferred more than US$45 million to the Venetian Las Vegas in 2006 and 2007. He was later investigated on suspicion of drug trafficking.
In September 2015, Las Vegas Sands’ U.S. market rival, Caesars Entertainment Corp, was ordered by U.S. federal and Nevada regulators to make its operating unit pay financial penalties totalling US$9.5 million for “systemic and severe” deficiencies in the way it dealt with money linked to high roller gamblers from Asia and elsewhere.
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"Given the opaque nature of the VIP segment (56 percent of gross gaming revenue in first quarter 2017), forecasting Macau GGR with a fair amount of certainty is difficult; therefore, we remain cautious"