A key figure in NSW Liquor and Gaming Authority’s inquiry into The Star Entertainment Group’s (ASX: SGR) suitability to hold a casino licence has been sentenced to 18 years' jail after being found guilty by a Macau court on multiple charges, including fraud and illegal gambling.
The Inside Asian Gaming website reports that Alvin Chau, the former CEO of Macau junket operator Suncity Group, was also ordered to pay US$1 billion ($1.43 billion) in compensation to the Macau government.
Chau, who was among a group of 11 people sensationally arrested by Macau authorities in December 2021, faced a host of charges, alleging that he and other executives of Suncity had cheated the Asian gambling capital of more than $US1 billion in tax revenue over many years. The trial, which began in September, involved 21 defendants, including Chau.
Inside Asian Gaming says Chau faced 229 counts of illegal gambling and 54 counts of substantial fraud, in addition to charges of criminal association, illegal gambling and money laundering. The charge of money laundering was not proven by the court.
The publication reports Chau was also accused of making US$2.67 billion ($3.8 billion) in profits from ‘betting under the table’ which led to charges of defrauding the Macau government and six concessionaires – namely the six big casino operators with 10-year concessions to run casinos in Macau. Among the concessionaires are MGM Grand Paradise, Melco Resorts and Wynn Resorts, who are understood to be seeking separate civil damages from Suncity.
The pressure on Chau and the junket industry was being brought at the time of his arrest by Chinese authorities who were cracking down hard on cross-border gambling by Chinese nationals.
The crackdown had begun years earlier, and at one stage caught out Melbourne casino operator Crown Resorts with the arrest of 18 Crown staff in China in 2016.
Chau was forced to resign as Suncity CEO after his arrest in 2021, leading to the collapse of the junket market in Macau. Suncity has since been rebranded LET Group Holdings, reinventing itself as an integrated resort operator with properties in Vietnam, Russia and the Philippines.
Chau founded Suncity in 2007 to bring wealthy Chinese gamblers to casinos in Macau. The company cultivated a strong relationship with The Star and Crown Resorts over almost decade, culminating in Suncity being allowed in 2018 to operate its own exclusive high rollers room known as Salon 95 at The Star Sydney.
Suncity had its own staff manning a service desk, including a cash cage where punters could buy chips, which the ILGA inquiry was told was a breach of its agreement with The Star.
The ILGA inquiry revealed Suncity operated a ‘casino within a casino’ at Salon 95 where some $900 million, the source of which could not be verified, passed through the unauthorised cash cage between 2013 and 2020.
The inquiry found that The Star's managers were 'cutting deals with Suncity despite Crown Resorts being criticised in 2019 for its dealings with Chau and the company due to its ties to organised crime figures.
The NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) late last year fined The Star $100 million after the ILGA inquiry found it unsuitable to hold a casino licence. The NICC also appointed an external manager to oversee the company’s return to suitability.
A separate inquiry by Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming mirrored the finding of the NSW inquiry, with The Star hit by a second $100 million fine and the appointment of the same external manager, Nicholas Weeks, to oversee the return to suitability by the end of this year.
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