Operator of Macau ‘name and shame’ website loses appeal


macau-wonderful-world-charlie-choi-prisonThe convicted operator of Macau’s ‘name and shame’ website of gambling debtors has lost his appeal of his prison sentence for violating data protection laws.

On Thursday, Portuguese-language media outlet Ponto Final Macau reported that Macau’s Court of First Instance had rejected an appeal by Charlie Choi Kei Ian, who’d been sentenced to six months in prison for failing to remove the personal data of some 500 alleged gambling deadbeats from the ‘Wonderful World’ website.

According to the report, the Court rejected Choi’s appeal on July 12, but the information has only now been made public. Choi (pictured) confirmed to Ponto Final that, after consulting with counsel, he’d determined that there was “no remedy but to accept” the sentence.

Choi had long maintained that, while he was chairman of Wonderful World Group Ltd, neither he nor the company of that name had any connection with the debtor website. But two witnesses at Choi’s trial claimed otherwise, and Choi himself appeared to contradict his denials in contemporary media reports.

The website appeared in 2013, displaying names, photos and other personal info of the gamblers, including the amounts they owed to the junket operators who’d fronted them credit to gamble in Macau casino VIP rooms. Controversially, the website claimed to offer ‘bounties’ to anyone whose actions led to collection of these gambling debts.

The website’s rise coincided with a sharp downturn in Macau’s VIP gambling sector sparked by Beijing’s crackdown on corruption, which in turn led to junkets sitting on mountains of uncollectable debts.

Choi is the head of the Macau Gaming Information Association, which represents some junket operators, while other junkets belong to the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters.

For years, both junket groups have been pressing Macau regulators to loosen the special administrative region’s notoriously strict data protection rules in order to create a blacklist of bad debtors. But the government has so far failed to budge.

However, Macau recently announced plans to create a password-protected online database of individuals forbidden from setting foot on casino gaming floors, which could signal a newfound willingness to grant junkets their long-desired blacklist.