Writs out on HK gamblers, write Wanda Szeto and Simon Beck

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 1997, 12:00am

LAS VEGAS casinos are taking legal action in Hong Kong to recoup millions of dollars in instant credit extended to gambling tourists.

At least five writs have been issued so far this month, accusing Hong Kong gamblers of failing to repay US$414,460 (HK$3.2 million).

But some defendants said they felt lured into debt because the casinos had offered huge sums without checking their personal credit ratings.

Last week the Mirage Casino-Hotel, Desert Palace Inc, Caesar's Palace and Las Vegas Hilton filed Supreme Court writs demanding payment of advanced credit.

The documents said five men had accepted credit lines between US$25,000 and US$100,000 from the casinos last year.

Company director Cheng Fuk-chuen, 47, urged people to refuse the easy credit after he lost more than US$28,400 on the blackjack and baccarat tables at the Mirage Casino-Hotel in June.

'Being granted an advanced credit was a point of no return,' he said.

Mr Cheng was in Las Vegas for a flower industry exhibition. He entered a casino just once and was given almost US$25,000 in betting credits in just 20 minutes.

He said he had gone with a Hong Kong businessman who introduced him to a Chinese casino duty manager. The manager had offered him credit of US$300,000, but he accepted only US$25,000, he said.

'I think the casino did not check my personal financial background and capabilities before granting me the money. If it had, I would not have qualified,' he said.

Mr Cheng, who says his wife and children are unaware of the huge loss, has agreed to pay back the money over the next 2.5 years.

A former Hong Kong scout employed to lure Asian high-rollers to Las Vegas casinos said credit checks were fast and thorough.

Some famous high-stake punters, such as the late Yip Hon, could get credit approval in seconds, he said.

Patrick Yung Tai-yin, one of the founders of Billboard Properties, is among those being sued by the Las Vegas Hilton for US$54,735.

A Las Vegas Hilton spokesman said the casino had several cases of Hong Kong gamblers incurring debt.

'If extending credit did not make sense for us financially, we would not do it,' he said.

'Most people we extend credit to pay it back in a reasonable period. But as in the case of anyone who extends credit, there are some people who do not pay it back, and we pursue it through private means, and then, if necessary, we will take legal action.' The spokesman rejected criticism that the casino was too eager to give credit to encourage gambling.

'Once the gamblers arrive here, they are anxious to have credit extended, but to imply that we are encouraging players to over-extend themselves is absolutely not true,' he said.