Macau police have cracked a gambling scam in which conmen fleeced mainland tourists out of millions of patacas in luxury hotel suites that had been turned into fake casinos.
One gambler was cheated out of 10 million patacas (HK$ 9.5 million), but police have yet to determine how many victims were involved and how much had been lost.
Officers seized 100 million patacas worth of fake chips.
Police said gang members had approached one or two potential big customers on the mainland and lured them with tales about the scale of the gambling business.
Hooked customers were then brought across the border and taken to the suites, which appeared to be genuine gambling halls with security staff, dealers and even other customers - all members of the syndicate.
A number of presidential and corporate suites in several luxury hotels, including the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, were used for the elaborate scams.
'Public relations' staff would offer the unsuspecting punters drinks spiked with drugs and then cheat them. Gang members would also cheat when dealing the cards.
Macau judiciary police said 16 people were arrested, including a 46-year-old ringleader from Shunde, Guangdong. Fifteen were from the Pearl River Delta area and one was a jobless Macau resident believed to be responsible for turning the suites into gambling halls.
They were arrested for fraud, fraudulent gambling, drug trafficking and accommodating overstayers, and will be transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office.
The 16 were netted in a raid early on Sunday on a luxury resort hotel on the Cotai Strip. Inside the suite, police found gambling equipment, including two tables, surveillance devices, card shufflers, and fake chips with a face value of 70 million patacas.
Drugs including 'Ice', or methamphetamine, and the sedative Dormicum were also found. A search of the alleged ringleader's flat at Colina da Guia allegedly uncovered more fake chips with a face value of 20 million patacas.
A police official said records showed the gang members had entered the former Portuguese enclave at least 19 times since March 2010 and they would work for two to three days at a time.
The fake chips were printed with the logos of several Macau casinos, including those owned by gaming giant Sociedade de Turismo e Divers?es de Macau.
Police are hunting for another alleged ringleader from the mainland.