19 arrested over Macau ‘pop-up VIP room’ casino scam

  • Macau gangs ran fake VIP games in casino hotel rooms
  • Suspects posed as casino staff to host fixed card games

19 Chinese mainland residents have been arrested at a Macau hotel in connection with an ongoing scam that cheated VIP casino players out of their chips and cash.

The gang ran a network of pop-up gaming rooms, set up in casino resort rooms and suites, which were made to look like exclusive VIP venues.

Victims of the scam have come forward after one player made the initial report last month, having lost HK $4 million (US $51,000) to the gangs.

Fake VIP rooms dupe gamblers into parting with cash

The casino industry in Macau relies heavily on its VIP casino income, with the VIP market accounting for 57% of all gaming revenues.

Most of Macau’s casinos offer luxury gaming facilities for their most prestigious members, including separate high-money tables in private rooms.

Criminal gangs from the Chinese mainland have been taking advantage of that VIP market – from inside the casinos and hotels themselves.

The 19 suspects – 4 women and 15 men – are accused of having posed as casino staff, from security personnel to hosts and dealers. They would rent suites and transform them into cardrooms, setting up their own tables and even installing metal detectors at the door. However, Macau News reports that police found HK $70 million (US $8.9 million) in casino chips in the suite, plus HK $200,000 in cash.

Four victims were playing in one of these fake rooms, and had lost around HK $4 million in the fixed casino game, when the raid took place. At least one of the victims was lured to the scam gaming room from the Chinese mainland, though others are thought to have been targeted within casino venues.

Allegations stretch back to 2015

It is not clear how long the scam had been operating, but the brazen way it was carried out suggests these were not newcomers to fraudulent gambling. Some reports suggest the Chinese gangs might have been operating these fake high roller rooms since 2015.

The 19 arrests concern those posing as staff members who were arrested at the venue, but there could be many more members of the fraud ring who are still operating, or who have gone to ground.

The news comes just after Macau authorities, working with Chinese officials, made 15 arrests in the city over alleged loan-sharking activities. VIP players were also targeted by gangs who offered fast loans – and exceptionally high interest rates. The gangs would then use coercion to get their money back from troubled gamblers.

OUR VERDICT

China’s President Xi Jinping has talked of a desire to bring mass market gaming and family venues back to Macau, as the growing VIP scene attracts crime and extortion. However, blossoming VIP revenues and strong annual figures ensure that Macau won’t be turning its back on luxury gaming just yet.

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