Singapore Casinos Find Collecting Debts from High Rollers Difficult

Posted on: June 3, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: June 3, 2017, 02:48h.

Lending money to big time gamblers is easy for Singapore casinos, but collecting on those debts is time-consuming and difficult. The number of VIP clients who are in debt to casinos is increasing and becoming more of an issue.

Singapore Casino gambler debts
VIP casino clients, like China table tennis gold medalist Kong Linghui, are not paying back gambling debts to Singapore casinos, forcing operators to sue to reclaim their money. (Image:

Bloomberg reported that in 2013, only two customers were sued to retrieve money owed, but by a year later, that number had jumped to 49. Most big shots use the services of junket operators, who act as facilitators for casinos, guaranteeing a certain amount of revenue from China’s wealthy gamblers.

The problem is there are only three such businesses in Singapore, as opposed to approximately 200 in Macau, another popular spot for Chinese citizens.

When customers in the Lion City don’t settle their accounts, it usually falls on the two casinos, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, to try to recoup the cash.

Debt Collecting a Challenge

Further complicating the issue are China’s ordinances on lawsuits. Singapore doesn’t have a reciprocal enforcement of judgments with the country, except for with Hong Kong. Petitioners must sue the defendant in their own country, then try to get a judgment in China.

Casinos are also hesitant to pursue claims because of the negative publicity involved. Both resorts have seen their revenues drop in recent years and don’t want to do anything that would scare away its wealthiest clients.

That base is continually shrinking with competition from places like Macau, which also vies for customers and has more than 40 facilities. China’s crackdown on gamblers is another factor keeping them from visiting.

High Profile Losers

That doesn’t mean debtors are excused from money owed. Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa have chased down those who have failed to pay. In 2012, Resorts World sued gambler Kuok Sio Kun in Singapore to recover $1.8 million and in 2015, Marina Bay Sands went after China’s For You Group Chairman Chen Huaide for $2.8 million.

Last year, Marina Bay Sands revealed that Xiao Wenge, former chairman of DMG Entertainment, owed $12 million.

Most recently, Olympic table tennis gold medalist Kong Linghui was the target of litigation by the Marina Bay Sands for a reported $327,480 he owed in gambling losses. Linghui claims it was a misunderstanding and said he is working with the casino to resolve the dispute.