Triads “Dominate” Macau Junkets, Says Academic Paper

Posted on: March 7, 2016, 05:08h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2016, 05:08h.

Triad links to Macau junkets exposed in academic paper
Wan Kuok-koi, aka “Broken Tooth,” the notorious former leader of the 14K Triads, who is believed to have had dealings with the junket industry. (Image:

Hong Kong’s triads have long been known to enjoy ties with Macau’s VIP industry, although the exact extent of their influence on the junkets has been a point of debate.

However, a new criminology study, whose researchers spent three years interviewing former triad members, police officers, Chinese officials and VIP room managers, has concluded that the influence of the criminal gangs is pervasive.

In fact, sociology Professor T. Wing Lo and research fellow Sharon Ingrid Kwok of Hong Kong’s City University, conclude the junket industry is inextricably intertwined with organized crime to the extent that it is “dominated” by the triads.

This is an industry that during the height of Macau’s economic boom years was responsible for some 60 percent of the enclave’s revenues, indicating that organized crime is a cornerstone of the gambling hub’s economy.

According to a member of the notorious 14K triads, interviewed for the study, most VIP-room contractors “are triads or businessmen with a triad background.”

Symbiotic Relationship

But it is, of course, a two-way street; the report states that Macau’s VIP rooms are “the main drivers of economic profits for the triads.”

And while the junket operations may currently be on the back foot, due to the anti-corruption crackdown instigated by Beijing, the triads have adapted their methods, becoming slicker and more subtle, more ““bank-like” and “civilized,” in their business practices, according to researchers.

“They have readjusted their traditional intrusive role and reinvented harmonious business strategies to suit the market reality,” states the report.  

Because of financial restrictions on moving money from the mainland to Macau, junket operators lend VIPs money and collect the debts when they return to China. Gambling debts are not enforceable on the mainland, which means that the added muscle triads provide ensures that operations run smoothly.

Operators and Regulator Denials

The report notes, though, that in recent years triads have been forced to operate increasingly in China, as they build ties with corrupt Chinese officials and mainland criminal syndicates, developing “flexible, social and entrepreneurial networks” to attract VIPs.

The reliance on Chinese criminal gangs, however, also suggests the gangs have ceded a modicum of control of their operations.

Interviews with former triads suggest that despite their protestations of innocence casino operators have always been fully aware of the level of infiltration by criminal gangs into their VIP networks.

“The casino management would select the most powerful triads, based on a couple of factors including money, triad, reputation and ability to mobilize manpower,” said one.

Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau has denied it is aware of any triad influence in the enclaves VIP rooms.