Fears over China’s anti-gambling actions against junket tours have spurred gamblers to withdraw massive amounts of money from Macau’s coffers. After a devastating blow from pandemic lockdowns, Macau casinos fear the worst.
It’s no secret that China is anti-gambling. Over the past few years China has tried to stem the flow of gambling tourists from the mainland to casino hubs like Macau. The Chinese government is not short of disparaging words for any country which they claim ‘lures gambling tourists’ from the mainland.
However, special administrative regions (SAR) of China like Macau and Hong Kong allow gambling in all its glory. The special VIP junket tours operate non-stop luxury tours for Chinese high rollers wanting some gambling action. Private planes, cash exchange, and casino credit services are par for the course.
Until now. China’s recent crackdown on junket tours as a “national security risk” have left many junket operators high and dry. And their customers are stampeding to their banks to withdraw their gambling funds out of fear of government seizure.
The cash drain could not come at a worse time for Macau, which is just recovering from massive losses during the pandemic casino lockdowns. China’s national holiday Golden Week shined a brief ray of hope, as millions of tourists take the week off to flock to Macau.
An anonymous casino executive said “This is not millions we are talking about being taken out here, but billions. We have cash in the bank but with everyone withdrawing, it’s a problem.”
China believes the VIP junket tours mask illegal currency exchange operations, tax shelters, and money laundering. The leading junket tour operator Suncity denies these allegations.
Still, junkets are suffering a massive loss of income as their wary customers rush to withdraw funds. They fear fund seizures or account blocking by China, and the mad rush to the ATM shows the scope of the losses.
In order to staunch the money bleed, Suncity has limited withdrawals of funds and outright banned large cash withdrawals. This has angered some Suncity customers, who are planning to protest on September 23 in VIP rooms across Macau. The group, called ‘Suncity Victims’, started an online group to spread word of the protest.
But the bottom line hit Macau the hardest, as half of the entire revenue of the country comes from the gambling industry.
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