Oh, the sneaky, sneaky rich. All over the world, these little devils try to squirm out of what are pretty cut-and-dried cases of having lost money to casinos and now needing to pay it back. You may recall the recent case of billionaire Australian Harry Kakavas who cried that he was a gambling addict who was taken advantage of by Crown Melbourne when he lost $1.5 billion to them and didn’t want to pay up.
Player Tries to Use a Technicality
Now another wealthy player – this time in Singapore – has tried a similar but different tactic to weasel out of paying up his massive gambling losses. But to no avail; Singapore’s High Court has ordered the cagey gambler to pay up and shut up in what represents the first casino debt collection trial where a player tried to get out of honoring his debts by using a technicality written into Singapore’s Casino Control Act and the Casino Control (Credit) Regulations 2010.
The case involves Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (a Las Vegas Sands property) and one Lester Ong Boon Lin, the 33-year-old progeny of a well-to-do rice merchant. Ong had been accepted as a “premium player” at the Sands before his May 2010 arrival; to do so, he had to deposit $100K in Singapore currency (US$78,480) into his Marina Bay Sands (MBS) player’s account.
Once Ong arrived at MBS, he promptly played – and lost – said $100,000, but, as is common practice with pre-qualified high rollers, the casino extended him credit to play on – and plenty of it. To be specific: S$1 million (about US$784,000). Unfortunately for Ong, he did not have a lucky stay, and ultimately lost a whopping S$241K (US$189,137) to the casino. And that’s where things started to get sticky.
Ong’s defense for not paying up was clever, if a bit facetious; the deadbeat gambler claimed that since he’d withdrawn his entire initial S$100k from his account, he should no longer have been classified as a “premium player,” and MBS should not have extended the S$1m in credit to him, as by Ong’s accounting, that was now illegal, thus invalidating any debts incurred from that extension. Nice try, Tonto.
Judge Says No Go
The judge wasn’t buying it. Justice Lai Siu Chiu said in her ruling that nothing in Singapore’s casino credit extension legalities at the time he played required a premium player to maintain a minimum – or any – balance in their player’s accounts. Based on this, the judge continued, Ong would have been considered a premium player for a year following his initial deposit, regardless of there being any balance left in his player’s bank or not.
As it happens, Singapore has actually since amended its regulations to more stringently describe who qualifies as a premium player; but as those amendments were not in place when Ong was playing, they were irrelevant to his specific case.
With that in mind, Lai required Ong to repay his debts to MBS to the tune of S$240,868 – the total of his combined losses for the trip – plus 12% interest per annum, which was calculated from August 15, 2010 up through to the complete and total payment of the entire debt. Even more staggering, Ong is now required to reimburse MBS for its yet-to-be-determined legal fees and ancillary costs.