HONG KONG: A local court sentenced a top Macau gambling boss to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty of charges including enabling illegal gaming, Hong Kong broadcaster TVB reported on Wednesday.
Alvin Chau was chairman of Macau’s Suncity junket – which brokered the gambling activity of Chinese high rollers – until December 2021, a month after his arrest.
The sentence marks a dramatic turnaround for the businessman, who was also found guilty of running a criminal syndicate and money laundering, and who once presided over the gambling hub’s VIP industry.
Chau pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Macau is the only city in China where citizens are permitted to gamble in casinos.
Chau’s lawyers had argued that he did not operate any illegal gambling or commit money laundering and that his business in the Philippines was permitted by local authorities there. No one from Suncity Group had promoted gambling on the mainland, his lawyers said.
Junket operators help facilitate gambling for wealthy Chinese in Macau, extending them credit and collecting on their debt on behalf of casino operators. Marketing or soliciting gambling in mainland China is illegal.
Chau’s Suncity was a major player in Macau until 2019, before prior the coronavirus outbreak, accounting for about 25% of total gaming revenues, industry executives said.
That year, Macau casinos generated US$36 billion in revenue.
The junket industry has collapsed in the former Portuguese colony since Chau’s arrest, with all of Suncity’s VIP rooms shuttered. Many other operators folded, hurt by poor sentiment and a lack of business due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions.