Executives' killings stoke fears in Macau as competition bites One of Macau's most luxurious VIP casino gaming halls was doing business as usual last night after its top director and her husband were found stabbed to death in a car in the neighbouring city of Zhuhai . Well-known businesswoman Chao Yeuk-hong, the executive director of the Golden Palace VIP room in the Casino Lisboa, and her husband Lam Pou-sang - who was a manager at the venue - were found slumped in the front seats of a Guangdong-registered car near the Zhuhai Golf Villa in Tangjia Bay early on Friday. Chao, who was in her fifties, was known by the nickname 'Sister Cat'. She and her husband were found at about 4am just outside the golf resort, which is in a high-security luxury neighbourhood. Reports said Chao's throat had been cut, and that her husband was blindfolded and had sustained multiple stab wounds. The killings - the first since 1996 of a Macau VIP gaming room operator - come amid concerns that fierce competition between high-rollers' rooms could rekindle underworld trouble not seen since the former Portuguese enclave's turbulent pre-handover period, when casino-related crime was rampant. A Macau Judicial Police spokesman said yesterday they had not yet begun an investigation into the case. However, Zhuhai police have confirmed details of the deaths and started a murder investigation, according to the Macau Daily News. Some reports said Chao was on a trip to collect a substantial debt when she was attacked. But a Casino Lisboa source said yesterday it was unlikely that a VIP hall executive would have to personally collect debts. The source said Chao was a well-connected, personable veteran of the gambling business. She also helped manage two other VIP halls managed by Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), including the King Seiner Palace at the Landmark Hotel. All three halls are held by the Success Universe Group and its Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, Macau Success. The Golden Palace experienced a boom under Chao's management, raking in a Macau-record monthly chip turnover of US$700 million in May last year. The hall has six gaming tables where the minimum bet is 10,000 patacas and the maximum bet 2 million patacas. Although tough competition after the liberalisation of the gaming market had cut into the profits of older VIP halls, the Golden Palace is still believed to be the most profitable in Macau. The Macau Daily News said the victims' bodies had been moved to the Zhuhai Funeral Parlour, which was under police guard. Last week gaming mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun said competition was bringing some VIP operators serious difficulties. Speaking at a charity function, Mr Ho said: 'Dozens of our VIP halls are having difficulty maintaining business. The hall operators ... say they can't go on.' Legislator Au Kam-san said casino-related crimes may return in the wake of a decline in the gaming sector. 'Few of the bloody crimes committed before the handover have been solved, which is to say the old rings have stayed intact,' he said. 'Now they can feed off the lucrative casinos ... but they are bound to fight again once profits shrink.' The opening of the Las Vegas-style Sands in 2004 ended Mr Ho's monopoly and has fuelled fierce competition. The number of gaming tables has since doubled to more than 2,000 as casinos fight for increased market share, but the average revenue per table has dropped by more than 20 per cent. Since 2004, Sands' market share has climbed to more than 20 per cent, while SJM's market share has dropped from more than 85 per cent in 2004 to about 70 per cent. Mr Ho said last week that 50 of his 150 VIP halls faced bankruptcy because of the Sands' aggressive marketing strategies. He said thousands of jobs may be lost and social security was under threat. In November 1996, Choi Chi-on, a VIP hall operator in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, was shot dead near the border gate with Zhuhai.