The trial involving Macau’s junket operator Suncity continues with new revelations on side-betting practices. Cheong Chi Kin, who was close to former Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau, has admitted to setting up a system for side-betting transactions.
21 Defendants, Including Alvin Chau, Are Answering Before the Macau Court
21 defendants along with Suncity Group founder and former CEO Alvin Chau have been brought before the court on charges involving illegal gambling operations, money laundering, fraud, and other offenses. Cheong Chi Kin, who is a former Suncity Group shareholder and close friend of Alvin Chau, is also among them.
After extensive interrogation, junket agent Cheong finally confessed that he organized side-betting transactions at Suncity Group’s VIP rooms in Macau through two companies that he was running.
Side-betting, which is also often called under-the-table betting, is a practice where the chips placed on the table represent only a fraction of the total wager the player and the casino have agreed upon orally. It is usually illegal and it is done in order to avoid paying taxes and fees.
Cheong was aided by Suncity Group’s former head of IT Ali Celestino, who helped him in the development and setting up of a system that was called Opsman.
However, the system itself was created by an IT firm situated in mainland China and was made according to the instructions by Cheong and Celestino.
The Opsman system was inspired by a Suncity Group system that ran internally at the company’s Macau venue called SunPeople, which helped Suncity staff communicate with each other.
Celestino has claimed that he only helped Cheong through communication with the IT firm and after the system was ready, he was no longer involved.
Cheong has also elaborated that he was only doing business as a junket agent who brought wealthy customers to the Suncity Group VIP room. He highlighted that the two companies though which he organized side-betting were separate entities and had no connection to Suncity Group.
Side-betting Practices Cost the Macau Government $1BN
The Suncity Group trial has revealed that side-betting was widely spread across Macau’s over 200 VIP rooms.
According to estimations, for the period from 2013 to 2021, when Chau was eventually arrested, such operations cost the Macao SAR Government tax revenues of about $1 billion, while considerably increasing profits for casino and junket operators.
The Suncity scandal and the following legal trial resulted in a major crackdown on junkets from Macau authorities. As a result, VIP rooms at Macau casinos were practically shut down, junket operations were restricted considerably and casino concessions were shortened from 20 years to 10 years, among other measures.