Chinese Police Crack Gambler 'Network' For Tigre De Cristal

November 8, 2021
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Chinese police are prosecuting 75 suspects after breaking up a finance and recruitment network for gamblers traveling to Russia’s Tigre de Cristal hotel-casino near Vladivostok.

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Chinese police are prosecuting 75 suspects after breaking up a finance and recruitment network for gamblers traveling to Russia’s Tigre de Cristal hotel-casino near Vladivostok.

In a major advance in cross-border gambling crime enforcement, a joint police investigation in northeastern Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces detained 142 suspects, of whom 75 have been charged with organising and facilitating gambling activity, including casino employees.

Chinese media reported on October 25 that the joint campaign detained suspects in 30 cities across 12 provinces over nine months, after being triggered by evidence of “extremely harmful” gambling tourism linked to the casino in July 2020.

A Heilongjiang Public Security Department spokesperson said the joint probe had “utterly destroyed” the network, which over five years spawned a constellation of “black and grey industries” that “seriously impacted the stability and people’s interests in the border area” between China and Russia’s Far East.

The probe also uncovered 18 shell companies, four underground banks and ten travel agencies, and included an investigation of 2,963 individuals, police said.

They added that 4,416 bank cards were seized and that the network was responsible for generating some 1.6bn yuan ($250m) in funds. Police also seized cash but did not name the amount.

Of the 75 suspects referred to prosecutors, one was named as a “casino manager”, 15 as shareholders, 19 as agents or creditors, two as travel agency managers and 38 as casino floor staff, according to the reports.

However, Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent, which owns Tigre de Cristal and is controlled by Suncity Group supremo Alvin Chau, has yet to inform the market of the arrest, resignation or disappearance of any of its Chinese staff.

The crackdown on the Tigre de Cristal’s Chinese customer base is the latest in a years-long series of aggressive campaigns targeting specific foreign casino operators and their China-based associates.

Previous targets of the campaign include Australia’s Crown Resorts, the prosecution of whose China staff helped trigger the downfall of most of its directors amid damaging regulatory probes, and South Korea’s Paradise Co and state-owned Grand Korea Leisure.

The latest case is also notable given that Russia’s Primorye District’s vision for an integrated resort precinct had seemingly gone under the radar of the Chinese authorities, or else had been treated more leniently than more conspicuous mainland China-facing operations in markets such as Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and Macau.

Summit Ascent’s most recent earnings report in August makes no mention of Chinese visitation, instead noting the entire absence of “foreign tourists” because of the coronavirus pandemic and a positive EBITDA result from Russian customers alone.

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