Casino sues gambler for millions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
 

MGM China's Macau casino unit is suing longtime VIP junket agent and North Korean tour operator Wong Sing-wa for failing to repay half of a three-year-old, HK$10 million debt.

MGM Grand Paradise, the Macau gaming licensee controlled by Las Vegas casino firm MGM Resorts International and Pansy Ho Chiu-king, daughter of Stanley Ho Hung-sun, alleges Wong drew down HK$10 million on a credit line issued by its Macau casino and lost it all on the gambling tables on September 8, 2008, according to a High Court writ filed on December 16.

Wong, a colourful and high-profile person in Macau's gaming industry, repaid HK$4.4 million in nine installments between September 2008 and September 2010, according to the lawsuit. MGM China is suing for the remaining HK$5.6 million plus 18 per cent interest per year, court filings show.

Wong is 'a VIP room operator, a suspected triad member and an individual with ties to North Korea', the attorney-general of the US state of New Jersey wrote in a 2009 regulatory report, citing a 2003 background memo authored by MGM Resorts' then head of corporate security.

Wong could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday.

Wong and his Talented Dragon Investment have long been associated with links to North Korea. In 1991, Wong served as the general manager of the DPR Korea-Macau International Tourism Company, a semi-official travel agency in Macau, and processed tourist visas to North Korea.

Wong has also reportedly been involved in the operations of the Pyongyang casino 100 per cent owned by Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), Stanley Ho's former Macau gaming monopoly. The casino made a loss of US$1 million on US$1.8 million in revenue during the year 2007, Ho's SJM Holdings said in its 2008 listing prospectus.

In January 2007, Wong accompanied Pansy Ho on a trip to Kazakhstan to explore gaming and non-gaming development possibilities on behalf of STDM and Shun Tak, according to the 2009 New Jersey report.

Wong's HK$10 million credit line at the MGM Macau was granted in the casino's first year of operation, when it was a 50-50 joint venture. Following its stock market listing earlier this year, MGM China is 51 per cent controlled by MGM and 27.4 per cent owned by Pansy Ho.

Macau casino operators seeking to recoup unpaid gambling debts have turned to the Hong Kong courts with increasing frequency since Wynn Resorts (Macau) last year won a landmark case against a high roller over HK$30 million in unpaid debts. That case, filed by Wynn in 2009 against Henry Mong, spent a year in open court before judges ruled in favour of the casino.

18%

is the amount in interest charged per year by MGM China for outstanding gambling debts

- The debt dates from September 8, 2008

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