Asia’s largest VIP casino junket operator, Suncity, recently announced that it will operate a hotel/casino in the Philippines. The co-development project involves Suncity and two Philippine companies, Suntrust Home Developers, and Westside City Resorts World Inc.

The Deal in the Philippines

The partnership between Suncity and the two Philippine developers was accomplished through a complicated web of subsidiary companies, which resulted in Suncity taking a 51% stake in Suntrust. The deal grants them sole development rights in the Main Hotel Casino in Manila’s Entertainment City gambling zone.

The new gambling consortium comes in the wake of a rapid expansion of gambling operations in the Philippines, which opened the doors to online gambling through its POGOs, or Philippines Offshore Gaming Operators. The Philippines drew criticism from China over targeting Chinese citizens for the purposes of gambling offshore.

But in spite of China’s attempts to curb gambling in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte remains defiant. He politely reminded Chinese authorities that the Philippines is a sovereign country which does not need to obey China’s anti-gambling laws.

Suncity’s Exponential Expansion

Suncity started off as a ‘middleman’ operator in the blooming Hong Kong and Macau casino industries, offering VIP tours for wealthy Chinese gamblers. The special VIP ‘junket’ tours were specifically designed for the exclusive needs of the richest of the rich Chinese nationals looking to escape China’s stringent anti-gambling laws.

Naturally, a huge junket tour market sprang up almost overnight, and Suncity rapidly became the 800-pound gorilla in the multi-billion-dollar VIP market. By offering ‘crazy rich Asians’ trips to Macau in private jets, presidential suites, access to high-roller rooms, and stacks of casino chips, Suncity rapidly grew to become the dominant junket tour operator.

The Suncity Group controls as much as 40% of all of the VIP gambling action in Macau alone. Suncity also takes in some tidy profits from VIP tours to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and the Crown Casino in Australia.

Once considered the ‘middleman’ in the equation, Suncity’s CEO, Alvin Chau, is now making moves to make the casinos the middlemen. With his rapid expansion through every casino country is Asia and beyond, Suncity is poised to actually control the game itself. With its partnership and resulting casino projects in the Philippines, Suncity will do more than provide services to casinos – they are the casino.

Rumors of Triad Links

Suncity’s rapid rise to dominance comes with a fair amount of criticism, mostly for its alleged links to Chinese organized crime groups like the triads. Suncity CEO Alvin Chau has been accused of having links to organized crime, and authorities in Australia and Hong Kong have accused Chau of being a member of Hong Kong’s 14K triads.

Everywhere Suncity goes, trouble seems to follow. From the Sihanoukville violence, kidnapping, and corruption, to the drugs, human trafficking, and violence at the Crown, Australia – Suncity is always at the center of the accusations.

The prosperous group provides ‘full service’ to all of its high roller clients, often flouting the local laws of the gambling destinations. When the VIPs flash the cash, they expect people to bend over backward to meet their needs. Often these ‘needs’ include illegal drugs or the services of prostitutes, many of whom are trafficked against their will.

Suncity has remained silent during all of the recent accusations by whistleblowers. Instead, casinos like the Crown in Australia take the brunt of the criticism for providing a venue for the illicit activities. The Crown continues to deny all allegations of wrongdoing, and Suncity still rakes in the cash.

One thing appears certain from the rise and dominance of Suncity in the gambling tourism game: when you have enough billions, local laws roll off you like water from a duck’s back.

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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.