Macau police bust loan shark gang that preyed on casino dealers

macau-casino-loan-sharksMacau authorities have broken up a group of loan sharks that preyed on casino dealers.

On Monday, Macau Business Daily reported that local police had arrested 10 individuals suspected of targeting casino staff, particularly dealers, with high-interest loans. The group has reportedly been operating in Macau for around five years and police aren’t ruling out further arrests.

Acting on a tip-off received this February, police mounted raids on multiple locations last week. The raids turned up evidence that the group had about 120 debtors currently owing around MOP 4m (US $500k). In addition to computers and other records, police also seized a cache of debtors’ bankcards and employee ID cards.

Police said the sharks required debtors to surrender their employee ID cards until their debt was repaid. If the debtor was having difficulty repaying the debt, the sharks would send four or five people to the individual’s station at the casino to demand repayment and cause a disturbance as an extra incentive to make with the money.

The money lent to the debtors was used to gamble at the casinos, essentially a low-rent version of the VIP-focused junket industry. After issuing the loan, the gang would accompany the gamblers to the tables to monitor the action.

Regardless of the result of the gambler’s play, he or she was automatically charged 10% interest on the borrowed sum, while an unpaid debt was charged an additional 10% every 10 days until the total was paid.

The arrests come just days after Macau’s Social Welfare Bureau revealed that one-fifth of problem gambling registrants were employed as dealers in local casinos. A recent survey of casino employees found that 77% would support revising local laws to prevent casino staff from being allowed to gamble in casinos.