David Beckham recently became the public face of Macau’s flagship resort, The Venetian. The Venetian belongs to US billionaire and Republican party backer Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
Macau’s foundation puts Las Vegas to shame. It is built a massive gambling industry its casinos turned in revenue of $44 bn in 2014 alone.
Not all of Macau’s business is show business. Experts describe the Macau casino scene as a hotbed of money laundering, Mafia activity, triad hosting and a pure unadulterated outlet for corrupt Chinese government members to spend their ill-gotten wealth.
The Chinese government now, however, is coming down hard on corrupt members of society and money laundering practises all throughout Macau resulting in a dried up stream of income from high rolling players.
Why China’s Macau needs to be paid attention to
If Macau’s gaming and entertainment industry is to survive the Chinese government crackdown, it must evolve and change. Reform is needed as soon as possible. Junkets or luxury gambling trips as well as fears of triad presence are felt and remain in Macau.
While’s Hong Kong’s forte is banking, Macau’s forte is gambling. Macau came into popularity due to the legal casinos left behind by its colonial masters, the Portuguese. Stanley Ho, the billionaire, owned the monopoly of casinos in the city but had to break the monopoly in 2002 when authorities opened up concessions to Chinese tycoons and a few foreign bidders who seized the opportunity.
The foreign bidders were mainly American and the first was Adelson in 2004. He became a multi-billionaire who was later famous for his comments on US and Israeli politics.
To pull the right high rollers through the doors, Macau used to be where the money was. Macau’s gambling industry pulled in more than seven times what the Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas Sands and MGM brought in.
Macau’s golden era might be at its end but this when the public will get to see what it looked like through the eyes of the rich and famous.
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A recent raid on a top casino at Las Vegas has thrown up clues of distinct connection between profitable gambling groups namely – High roller player junkets to Macau, high stake poker games and online sports betting. According to US regulators, the combination of these three is a perfect medium for attracting unsavoury elements of organized crime followed by money laundering. When federal authorities raided Caesars Entertainment in July 2014 and busted an illegal sports gambling racket it discovered that it had provided junket executives five villas for free along with credit of $90 million for high stakes gambling.
World Cup Soccer and Poker Competition at Vegas
The hotel claimed that the group of high roller players had come on special invitation for the poker competition and employees became suspicious of their strange requests for computers, televisions, DSL lines along with Wi-Fi. Since Caesars’ staff alerted police and also cooperated with them they were not charged when Paul Phua, an eminent high stakes player from Macau was accused of illegal sports gambling. Though others accused with Paul Phua were charged and fined, Paul has denied involvement in these crimes due to his contribution to Macau’s development and ownership of largest sports betting firms in the world.
Dangerous gambling combination
The Asian junkets bringing high rollers from Asian cities like Paul Phua to casinos in Macau has been working as successful money laundering outfits as funds are being transferred as wins and losses across national boundaries with ease. High stakes games in poker, baccarat and other card games are being financed by money from criminal activities. Though sports’ betting is considered illegal in several nations across Asia and some states in United States, it is still being carried out by high stakes junket players who travel to areas where it is legal to carry out their operations. The existence of illegal bookmakers and betting sites, sports betting provides ample scope for money laundering.