High-rollers from China make Singapore casinos see red

Tue Apr 9, 2013 9:33pm EDT
 
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By Eveline Danubrata and Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - High-rollers get lavish treatment and hefty credit lines at Singapore's two casinos, like any other gaming house in the world. But here, more of them skip town without paying their debt, a matter of increasing concern for investors.

Three years after Singapore allowed casinos to open, Genting Singapore PLC's Resorts World Sentosa and Las Vegas Sands Corp's Marina Bay Sands have become the world's most profitable. Chinese nationals account for around half of the VIP gaming volume at their tables.

An examination of court documents by Reuters and a series of interviews with lawyers and industry executives reveal that several of the gamblers have run up millions of dollars in debt and then scampered back to China, where they are effectively untouchable.

Resorts World sued Chinese gambler Kuok Sio Kun in Singapore last year to recover S$2.2 million ($1.8 million). But more than six months on, the casino has not even managed to serve court papers to the Macau-based woman.

After several letters of demand went unanswered for months, it tapped a Singapore law firm to sue the 46-year-old, court documents show.

It then hired a Macau-based law firm, which advertised in a Chinese-language newspaper, posted the court documents at Kuok's last known address and went there twice.

"I have made all reasonable efforts and used all due means in my power to serve the court documents on the defendant, but have not been able to do so," the Macau lawyer said in the documents.

In Macau, the world's biggest gambling haven, debts are mostly handled by junket operators, who bring high rollers to casinos. Some of the 200 or so operators there have been associated with triads, or criminal gangs, which are notoriously efficient in collecting money.   Continued...

 
Guests leave the lobby area of the Sentosa Resorts World Casino in Singapore April 8, 2013. High-rollers get lavish treatment and hefty credit lines at Singapore's two casinos, like any other gaming house in the world. But here, more of them skip town without paying their debt, a matter of increasing concern for investors. REUTERS/Edgar Su