US plays down Macau money laundering claims; Taiwan casino referendum

TAGs: Macau, money laundering, taiwan, wynn macau

macau-money-laundering-allegationsStephen Young, the US consul general for Hong Kong and Macau is attempting to minimize the fallout from allegations made by the US State Department re Macau’s junket operators. Wikileaks had previously disclosed a State Dept. report that estimated the sums changing hands between Macau-bound gamblers and junket operators to be 10x what was being wagered inside the casinos. The report went on to link those sums to money laundering and terrorism financing. Young now says that the 10x figure was “just speculation or a guess.” Admitting that he was “not an expert” and that he found the junket business “a little puzzling,” the consul general said he “can’t give you any more [information] on this idea that there is a lot of side-betting.” Nonetheless, Young is still “prepared to believe that there is a lot of stuff going on.” Yes, stuff. And we hear the US is really cracking down on… stuff. So don’t commit, er, stuff. (Is it just us, or is it getting stuffy in here?)

Speaking of fat sums, Wynn Macau Ltd. saw profits more than double last year following the April opening of Encore Macau, Wynn’s second resort casino in the Chinese gambling enclave. Full year results for 2010 saw net income rise to HK $4.42b (US $567m) from HK $2.07b in 2009. Casino revenues were up 60% to HK $21.1b.

With numbers like that, other jurisdictions are keen on getting them some of that… stuff. The Matsu Islands, a small archipelago controlled by Taiwan, plans to hold a referendum on whether to construct a resort casino destination. The Matsu County government will begin explaining the referendum particulars to its 6,000 residents in June, with the actual voting completed by November. If approved, plans are to solicit central government support for an airport and other infrastructure projects necessary for going forward. Two locations will be selected as candidates, after which feasibility studies can commence. And then the sweet casino cash can start swimming across from the Chinese mainland… Frankly, we’re not so sure. China’s had a hard-on for Taiwan since 1949, when the Nationalists lost the fight with the Communists and retreated to the island. As such, China still views Taiwan as part of its territory. Now China’s going to let this breakaway republic horn in on its Macau money? This means war! Again!

Singapore is already reaping rich rewards from its two integrated resorts, but all that cash can attract a cast of unsavory characters, such as State Dept. officials, or the pair of roulette cheats who took the Resorts World Sentosa for almost US $23k over a seven-day period last October. In the scam, a crooked croupier ensured that the roulette ball would fall within a designated 20-number range, and overpaid his gambling partner when he bet incorrectly. The croupier was to receive 35% of the take, but instead, both men received 21 months in prison. Their lawyer played the gambling addiction sympathy card, but let’s face it – the minute these guys started rigging the outcome, they ceased to be gamblers. So enjoy your stay at Penal World Sentosa, guys.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of