Naming and shaming: Macau website targets deadbeat gamblers

Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:59am EDT
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By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hustler, cheater, robber, rogue.

Gamblers who skip out on casino debts in Macau risk being branded with these monikers and having personal details made public by a website that says it has helped to recover 50 million yuan ($8 million) so far.

But the novel strategy to combat bad debts in the world's largest gambling destination is under scrutiny from the police for possibly breaking the law and from the Chinese territory's gaming authority over privacy concerns.

The bilingual website, called Wonderful World in English, features a blacklist of more than 70 people from across China who it says have failed to repay gambling debts ranging from thousands to millions of yuan.

Photographs of alleged deadbeats, along with their date of birth and marital status, are displayed prominently. A bounty is often offered for help in tracking them down.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony and the only place in China where casinos are allowed, raked in $38 billion in gaming revenues last year, with 70 percent of that coming from the lucrative VIP sector.

Collecting gambling debts is illegal in China, which makes Macau's 35 casinos heavily reliant on junkets - companies or agents that lure high rollers - to settle any debts. The top junkets are sprawling conglomerates with thousands of employees and deep pockets that allow them to lend millions to gamblers.

In one entry on the site, a young man from northern China is alleged to owe tens of millions of yuan from a loan dating back to 2011. The photo shows him wearing glasses and a blue shirt as he drives a car. His occupation is listed as "idling away his time" and his hobbies as "eating, being merry and gambling".   Continued...

A high angle view of croupiers prepare to greet visitors at Sands Macau casino in Macau, a former Portuguese enclave before reverting to Chinese rule, in this May 18, 2004 file photo.REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files