Suncity Illegal Gambling Ops Handled $42B in Bets from China

Posted on: January 9, 2024, 10:06h. 

Last updated on: January 9, 2024, 11:36h.

Gamblers from the Chinese mainland plowed the equivalent of US$42 billion into online gambling sites owned by former Macau junket giant Suncity, Chinese state-controlled media has reported.

Suncity, Alvin Chau, Wenzhou
Fallen junket king Alvin Chau probably made around $1.2 billion from Chinese bettors on his online gambling websites since operations began in 2015, according to prosecutors in Wenzhou. (Image: Macao News)

China Central Television (CCT) said Monday this was revealed in August 2022 during a three-day trial of Suncity operatives held in the western mainland city of Wenzhou.

Many of the company’s senior executives, including founder and CEO Alvin Chau, were prosecuted separately in Macau on charges of illegal gambling and criminal association. Macau’s judicial powers are independent from the Chinese central government.

Chau was convicted in Macau in January 2023, along with 12 other defendants, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Army of Agents

Details of the Wenzhou trial were reported for the first time on Monday by CCT, Macau Business reports. The trial involved 34 defendants, including Zhang Ningning, who was convicted of managing Suncity’s assets on the mainland, and who was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The court heard that Suncity probably made around US$1.2 billion in profit from the US$42 billion it handled from Chinese gamblers. Additional revelations included that Chau hired at least 283 mainland Chinese operatives when he began running online gaming platforms from the Philippines and other countries in 2015.

Each was required to invest around $600K into the operation and was asked to hit ambitious sales targets.

“In order to maximize profits, Chau lured others to act as agents using commissions and dividends as bait. Through these agents, he organized and attracted Chinese nationals to participate in gambling in Suncity-operated gambling rooms or engage in cross-border online gambling,” CCT reported, as translated by Asia Gaming Brief.

Side-Betting Swindle

In Macau, Chau was convicted of swindling the government out of HK$8.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) in tax revenue via Suncity’s illegal side-betting operations. This involved the junket group secretly offering to multiply stakes on official bets placed by VIP clients at Macau casinos. These would be settled later, tax-free.

Before his arrest in November 2021, Chau was among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Macau. Suncity was the biggest junket operator in the market, generating an estimated 25% of VIP revenue in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

But the writing was on the wall from July 19, 2019, when a financial newspaper owned by the state-run press agency, the Xinhua News Agency, accused Suncity of generating billions through online gambling operations that targeted China. These operations were doing “great harm” to the country’s social economic order, the paper said.

As Chau knew only too well, a negative mention in state media is often a precursor to retaliatory measures toward an individual or entity that has displeased the government.