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Alvin Chau: From Casino Ruler to Cell Block Lifer Kingpin Gets 18 Years in the Slammer

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Gambling kingpin, Alvin Chau, the mastermind behind Macau’s largest operator of junkets, Suncity Group, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for over 100 charges including organized crime and illegal gaming. The 48-year-old, who is a high-profile and colorful figure in the local casino industry, had denied the charges. The case centered on illegal bets exceeding HK$823.7bn.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is the only Chinese city where casino gambling is legal. Suncity Group arranged for high rollers from mainland China to travel to Macau and gamble in the city’s casinos, and offered loans to them. It also collected debts for casinos, and operated VIP rooms across Macau’s casinos. Chau was known as the “Junket King” and resigned from his position as chairman and founder of Suncity Group in December 2021 days after his arrest.

Prosecutors had accused chau of creating and leading a criminal syndicate that had facilitated undeclared bets, resulting in the government losing more than HK$8.26bn in tax income. The court ruled in favor of the prosecutors for most of the charges, but acquitted chau of money laundering. The high-profile case also involves 20 other defendants.

The gambling industry has been hit hard by coronavirus restrictions as well as a crackdown by the Chinese government on money being moved out of the mainland. In September, a court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou jailed more than 30 people for cross-border gambling in connection with chau’s case.

Suncity shut all of its VIP rooms after chau’s arrest. However, even before that, the number of junkets in Macau had been on constant decline. There are now only 36 junket operators left, down from 100 in 2019, according to official figures. With his slicked-back hair and tanned skin, chau is a well-known figure in the Chinese-speaking world and a favorite among tabloids which have focused on his love affairs. Local media labeled him ‘Washing Rice Wa’ after a sitcom character, though the name can also be seen as an euphemism for money laundering.

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