How far would you go to evade a junket debt?

TAGs: casino cruise, hong kong, junkets, Macau

gambling-junket-debtThere’s been no further word from Crown Melbourne officials on the high-tech scam that reportedly deprived the casino of $32m earlier this month. Among the more intriguing questions is why, after learning that a VIP gambler had conspired with a member of the casino’s video surveillance team to have the value of the house’s cards fed to him at the gaming table via wireless device, did the casino allow the foreign high-roller at the center of the incident to pack his things and leave his comped luxury suite at Crown Towers? Did they at least check his luggage to see he wasn’t also making off with the bath towels?

In its sole public comment on the incident, Crown said police were investigating the matter and that Crown felt it was “in a good position to recover a significant portion” of the pilfered funds. Crown declined to say whether a junket operator had brought the VIP in question to Melbourne. High-roller turnover at Crown Melbourne was $31b in 2011, and many VIPs were funneled into Crown’s waiting arms by junkets. While the junket industry has become more, er, mainstream over the past decade, some of the lower tier junketeers have been accused of operating well outside the law in their efforts to ensure gamblers honor their markers.

Case in point… Last week, Macau judiciary police arrested a man for illegally detaining a Chinese mainland resident for 10 days over an unpaid MOP 5m (US $625k) gambling debt. The Macau Daily Times reported that local police rescued the man after a tip-off from mainland authorities. The detained man wasn’t even the gambler who rang up the debt, but had merely “helped his acquaintance borrow the money.” The actual gambler fled after losing the borrowed cash at an unidentified casino, so the lenders grabbed his buddy and allegedly forced him to sign a document assuming responsibility for the debt. It appears the nervous man was then allowed to contact friends or family on the mainland for help in securing his bailout, after which they alerted the mainland authorities of the strong-arm tactics.

Another Chinese gambler sought to evade some casino cruise ‘loan-sharks’ by leaping from the ship’s deck into the waters of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor. According to local news outlet Ming Pao, a gambler named Lu had borrowed and lost HK $120k (US $15.5k) at the ship’s gaming tables. Rather than work out some arrangement with his creditors, Lu went up on deck, stripped to his skivvies, slipped into something more comfortable (a lifejacket) and leapt overboard.

Sadly, this would-be D.B. Cooper’s plan unraveled after other passengers alerted ship officials, and a passing boat soon stopped and threw Lu a line. Lu was pulled from the water along with his clothes, money and documentation, which he’d had the foresight to pack into plastic bags to keep dry. It would be interesting to learn the type of plastic bags into which Lu loaded his laundry. If they’re just some garbage bags he nabbed from the ship’s washroom, it suggests his decision to jump was a spontaneous and rather desperate action, making Lu a somewhat tragic figure. However, if Lu was found to be safeguarding his ensemble in some large water-tight Zip-locs, it suggests he’d worked out a contingency plan in case the cards didn’t fall his way, making him little more than a scammer with more cojones than foresight.


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