Hong Kong junkets and Macau casinos are growing increasingly nervous as the Chinese authorities attempt to crack down on official corruption and money laundering.
Rumors have been confirmed that Ng Chor Har, wife of Neptune Group owner Cheong Chi-tal, was arrested and released on bail in March. Neptune is Macau’s top junket operator, and Chor Har was pegged for money laundering with the authorities seizing or freezing assets worth $25.8 million. Macau gambling laws have been lax on requiring information from junket operators, many of which are believed to be connected to launderers and organized crime syndicates.
Chinese authorities crack down on junkets
The move is part of a push on the part of the authorities in Beijing to crack down on junkets laundering money for corrupt public officials. Most such operations are located in Hong Kong. The authorities have made a point to freeze assets, thereby forcing junkets to release information on their clientele. This technique is used to indentify officials guilty of corruption.
The central government is reported to have placed 20 junket operators on a blacklist, with Neptune being one such company. While the crackdown may be successful in curbing corruption it may hurt Macau’s casino business, which is largely dependent on wealthy high-rollers provided by junkets. However, Sheldon Adelson recently made gambling news by announcing that his Macau casinos would do more to vet potential customers.