HONG KONG – Macau’s biggest junket operator Suncity, which operates VIP gambling rooms around Asia, has raked in billions of dollars in online gaming and proxy betting, causing great harm to China’s social economic order, a state-backed report said this week.
The report by Economic Information Daily was the first time a Macau junket operator has been singled out for online gaming activity and comes as China faces slowing growth and seeks to keep a lid on capital outflows.
Gambling is illegal in mainland China apart from the special administrative region of Macau where Chinese nationals are able to bet in casinos.
Suncity enabled Chinese players to bet through online casinos in the Philippines and Cambodia and utilised underground banks to move capital out of the country, the report.
“The annual amount bet through online gambling in the mainland is more than one trillion yuan, equivalent to nearly twice the annual income of China’s lottery,” the report said.
Suncity said in a statement that it didn’t operate any online gaming business and all its operations were permitted under local government regulations.
Suncity’s publicly listed entity in Hong Kong, Suncity Group Holdings, does not include its junket operations. Junkets are middlemen who bring high rollers to play, extending them credit and collecting on their debts.
The group’s other ventures include an equity stake in a US$4 billion (S$5.44 billion) casino project in Vietnam together with VinaCapital, a Vietnamese investment management and real estate firm, and Hong Kong-based VMS Investment Group. The project is due to open this year.
Mr Alvin Chau, the 45-year-old founder of Suncity, has grown the company from operating a high-roller table in Wynn Macau’s casino in 2007, to a sprawling conglomerate with businessses ranging from property to autos and thousands of employees.
Mr Chau in June became chairman of Summit Ascent Holdings, which controls a casino in Russia’s Vladivostok, after Suncity increased its stake in the company to 30 per cent.
Eager to shed the industry’s shady image and avert scrutiny from regulators, particularly in the United States which alleges that many junkets have ties to organised crime and facilitate illicit money flows, companies like Suncity have tried to diversify into industries such as dining and film.