People allegedly on the fringes of Macau’s VIP gambling junket trade are among those being held, following police raids on four suspected “underground” casinos in mainland China’s Jiangsu province.
Mainland Chinese media outlet The Beijing News reported on Thursday the police action, said to have been on Tuesday, in the cities of Suzhou and Wuxi. The news outlet said police indicated some of the 50 people detained, had been associated with junket business in Macau. Among those held, were two people alleged to be ringleaders.
The police also suggested that recent restrictions on travel from the mainland to places where casino gambling is legal, might have been a factor in boosting demand for illicit casino play on the mainland. Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
The police action was subsequent to investigative reports published by The Beijing News, alleging that several illicit gaming venues had been set up in other places in Jiangsu: the cities of Kunshan and Taican. In those scenarios, the venues were either abandoned factories or vacant houses.
Two reporters had gone undercover, and posed respectively as a junket associate and as a gambler. The reporters claimed people at the underground casinos they visited, had said individuals with “junket” experience, i.e., of directing high-value clients to Macau casinos, were hired specifically for the operation. The setup allegedly offered high-stakes baccarat games.
The Beijing News cited Suzhou police as saying those suspected of involvement had constantly shifted the location of their “underground casino venues” in a bid to avoid official detection. The news outlet also indicated the police believed the successful luring of gambling clients was linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, as associated travel restrictions had prevented such people from travelling and gambling outside the mainland.
The report also cited Suzhou police saying they had identified 285 gaming-related criminal cases in that city so far this year, which had resulted in the arrest of 1,241 suspects.
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Macau’s total VIP gross gaming revenue in the first quarter of 2021