The Venetian Macau, which belongs to US casino king Sheldon Adelson, has filed cases against two high rollers from mainland China, who had borrowed in millions from the casino. The casino has moved a court in Hong Kong to retrieve debts worth $4.5 million from the duo.
Macau has become the largest casino market in the world because of wealthy gamblers from mainland China. Retrieving debts from mainland Chinese high rollers is difficult because the courts in mainland China do not recognize gambling debts. According to the laws of mainland China, gambling is illegal. On the contrary, Hong Kong and Macau are semi autonomous territories belonging to China, where the laws are different from those in mainland China.
On Wednesday, the Venetian Macau filed a case in the Hong Kong High Court, seeking to retrieve HKD23.4 billion or $3 million lent to Zou Yunyu, once one of the richest people in China. According to a 2008 Forbes estimate, Shanghai Gaoyuan Property Group, her company, was worth around $220 million. The casino filed a separate case against Xie Xiaoqing, deputy to the Hubei provincial legislature and entrepreneur, seeking to retrieve the HKD11.3 million or $1.5 million it had lent to him.
Usually, middlemen called “junket operators” handle VIP business by arranging high rollers’ travel to Macau. They also supply loans to the high rollers as they are restricted from the capital controls of Beijing from carrying large sums of money across the borders. In case of Xie and Zou, the casino had directly lent money to them. According to the case filed against the two, they had gambled away the money in no time.
The Venetian Macau had lent HKD30 million to Zou on September 30, 2011 and Zou was expected to return the money to the casino 2 weeks later, failing which the casino would charge an interest rate of 18% on the balance. Zou repaid small instalments of HKD2 million each for three months last year and then stopped paying.
The casino lent HKD10 million to Xie on April 1, 2012 and another HKD2 million a couple of days later. Xie repaid HKD200k in September and then stopped paying.
The money owed by the two Chinese high rollers is not a big amount for Las Vegas Sands, which raked in around $350 million in profits during the Q3. Over 90% of these profits are from its Macau branch, called Sands China, which owns four casinos in Macau.