Macau: Gambling Kingpin Jailed For 18 Years

On Wednesday, a court in China's Special Administrative Region of Macau sentenced "junket king" Alvin Chau to 18 years in jail on 162 charges, including fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association.

Macau: Gambling Kingpin Jailed For 18 Years
Image credit: AP [via ABC News]

Facts

  • On Wednesday, a court in China's Special Administrative Region of Macau sentenced "junket king" Alvin Chau to 18 years in jail on 162 charges, including fraud, illegal gambling, and criminal association.
  • A high-profile billionaire gambling kingpin, Chau was found guilty of fraud, running an illegal gambling empire, and operating illegal bets, but was acquitted of money laundering. He denied all wrongdoing during his four-month trial.
  • Prosecutors had accused Chau and 20 co-defendants of running an under-the-table bet syndicate worth $139B that swindled Macau out of HK$1b ($128m) over an eight-year period. His defense acknowledged the existence of under-the-table gambling but noted a lack of direct evidence implicating Chau.
  • The founder of the now-defunct Suncity Group, Macau's biggest operator of junkets, Chau reportedly organized trips to bring wealthy gamblers from mainland China to Macau – the only Chinese city where casino gambling is legal – until December 2021, a month after his arrest.
  • According to state media, the court ordered Chau to pay the Macau government more than $830M, and $22.7M-$98M to five casino operators saying their revenue took a hit due to Suncity not declaring the full extent of its gains.
  • Chau's legal team says he was disappointed by the court's ruling and is likely to appeal, alleging a "lack of evidence" for the illegal gambling and fraud charges. A 20-day period has been given to all defendants to appeal.

Sources: SCMP, BBC News, Straits Times, Reuters, CNN, and Macau Business.

Narratives

  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by Reuters. Chau's sentence is unfair and signals the end of Macau junkets and VIP gambling. There's no evidence that Suncity ever operated under-the-table multiplier bets or that it was a criminal syndicate, which is probably why it never ran into legal trouble in more than a decade of operating worldwide. The verdict will hit Macau's gambling industry — already reeling because of COVID restrictions — and will make it harder for the city to spring back.
  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by Macau Business. Chau's prosecution sends a message that Beijing will no longer tolerate illicit activities in Macau aimed at aiding mainland gamblers and corrupt PRC officials launder money. Apart from reminding the junket industry that Xi Jinping can pull financial levers on matters of national security, China's anti-corruption drive shows that the PRC will never allow economic power to become concentrated in a small handful of junkets.