Rodrigo Duterte
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A recent Facebook photo of Jack Lam. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Gaming tycoon Jack Lam flees Philippines, has casinos shut down amid sabotage and bribery allegations

Following arrest of more than 1,300 of his staff, Asia gaming industry heavyweight becomes high-profile target of President Duterte’s crackdown

One of Asia’s most influential gaming industry figures has been forced to flee the Philippines after becoming a prime target of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs and gambling.

Duterte earlier this month ordered the arrest of Jack Lam Yin-lok – chairman of Hong Kong stock exchange-listed Jimei International Entertainment Group – if he attempted to enter the Philippines, where he faces allegations of economic sabotage and high-level bribery.

The dramatic and unusual presidential order – understood to have been issued after Lam left the country on November 29 for an unknown destination – only applies to the Philippines and has not triggered an international manhunt.

It followed the arrest late last month of more than 1,300 Chinese nationals at Lam’s Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, the former United States air force base on Luzon Island.

Immigration Lookout bulletin order against Jack Lam by DOJ Philippines. Photo: Manila Bulletin

Those arrested are accused of working illegally for an online gaming operation run by the Macau-based Lam, who is a Hong Kong resident.

Philippine gaming regulators have since closed Lam’s Clark operation and the affiliated Fort Ilocandia Casino.

Information from gaming insiders that Lam had travelled to Macau on leaving the Philippines could not be immediately confirmed by the Post.

Trading in Jimei shares was halted on Monday. In a statement released on Tuesday, the company said: “The board of directors of the company has noted recent press articles relating to alleged bribery and economic sabotage by a director and the controlling shareholder of the company and the issue of order of arrest.

“The articles relate to alleged involvement by Dr Lam Yin Lok, an executive director and controlling shareholder of the company in economic sabotage in the Philippines and bribery.

“The company clarifies that the gaming operations cited do not form part of the group’s business. The board confirms that the incident mentioned in the articles relate to Dr. Lam and is his own personal matter and in no way materially affects or involves the company and its subsidiaries, nor is it expected to affect the normal business operation of the group nor any other current or future plans.”

The incident ... relates to Dr. Lam and is his own personal matter and in no way materially affects or involves the company and its subsidiaries
Statement from Jimei International Entertainment Group

The company added that as far as it was aware, Lam had not been held by the Philippine authorities.

Duterte ordered Lam’s arrest on December 3 amid contested allegations that he tried to bribe Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Andrea Domingo, to release the more than 1,300 Chinese nationals arrested on November 24.

According to media reports in the Philippines, Lam left the country on November 29.

The casinos have been temporarily closed pending an investigation into alleged illegal or unlicensed online gaming operations and the alleged employment of illegal workers.

Lam, his lawyer in the Philippines, Raymond Fortun, and Jimei have yet to respond to requests from the Post for comment.

Lam is one of the largest VIP junket operators in Asia and Jimei is key to the fortunes of two of the former Portuguese enclave’s most important gaming companies, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Macau. The players he has brought to Macau are some of the biggest high rollers in the business.

In addition to junket services, Jimei operates two casino cruise ships – the M.V. Jimei, out of Hong Kong, and Xiang Xue Lan, with routes between China and South Korea. The company opened its first casino in Macau in early 2009, in the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Lam is also a member of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Additional reporting by Raissa Robles in Manila

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Gaming kingpin targeted by Duterte flees PhilippinesCasino kingpin flees Duterte crackdown