In May 2017 this matter came into highlight when a former Chinese table tennis player claimed he was innocent after a casino in Singapore sued him in Hong Kong for owing it a gambling debt and asking him to pay the money back.
According to a writ filed few months back by Marina Bay Sands with the Hong Kong High Court Kong Linghui, 41, signed a credit agreement to borrow S$1 million (US$722,341) during the Lunar New Year holiday in 2015. Kong has paid back part of the money with S$454,375 still unpaid. Kong is known as “ping-pong prince” in China for his gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.
The high roller but denied the accusations and said that he was at the casino with his parents and friends during that period but did not gamble. According to him he signed as a guarantor so that one of his friends could get a loan from the casino operator. He said his friends in Macau have helped him pay MBS all of the remaining debt plus interest and lawyer’s fees totaling more than S$500,000.
Kong was also ordered to return to China immediately for investigation, according to Apple Daily.
According to star news each year, millions of mainlanders head to Macau, a special administrative zone of China and the only place in China where gambling is legal. A small number of mainlanders – like Kong – also head to Singapore, where there are only two gambling resorts.
But these casinos are facing difficulties attracting Chinese gamblers, and have even more issues than their Macau counterparts when it comes to recovering their debts. Last year, tourist arrivals and spending in the city state hit record highs, buoyed by the arrival of mainland Chinese visitors. Over 2.86 million stopped in Singapore in 2016, a 36 per cent increase on the previous year. Though the stats are low compared to Macau, which sees about 20 million mainland gamblers each year the mainland tourists spent 41 per cent more than the year before, much of it was while shopping – not at the casinos, which have seen their revenue slipping in recent years.
In 2015, Chinese tourists spent 27 per cent of their money on sightseeing, entertainment and gambling, but that dropped to 24 per cent last year. Singapore legalised casino gambling a decade ago, but its two resorts have been struggling in recent years to attract mainland tourists. The casinos have been hit hard by Beijing’s corruption crackdown and rival casinos popping up around Asia. The city state’s strict gambling rules have also deterred mainland visitors. Beijing’s crackdown on capital flight is also expected to cast an impact on the gambling business in the Lion City.
Singapore’s two gambling resorts, the Marina Bay Sands – owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation – and locally-owned Resorts World Sentosa have both seen revenue decline, and have tried to get visitors to spend on non-gambling activities.
At the lavish Marina Bay Sands, for instance, there’s a 57-storey high, 150-metre rooftop infinity pool and an art museum. The Singapore Tourism Board has also been intensifying marketing efforts in tier-one and two cities in China by partnering with the country’s digital players like Tuniu and curating content on Singapore’s tourist attractions for Chinese platforms, including WeChat and Dianping.
Singapore’s casinos have a problem recovering their debts from high rollers
Singapore casinos have more trouble getting gamblers to pay up than their Macau counterparts. In Macau, about 200 licensed junket operators provide credit to casino customers and collect the money they owe.
But in Singapore, there are only three licensed operators, so gaming losses tend to fall on the casinos, who are then forced to use legal means to get their money back. According to Bloomberg figures, the number of lawsuits against gamblers who didn’t cough up the cash grew from two in 2013 to 49 in 2014.
Also Singapore doesn’t have a reciprocal enforcement of judgements with China, except for Hong Kong. So if a casino wants to sue a Chinese gambler, it’s not enough just to obtain a judgement in a Singaporean court – it also needs to sue the gambler on the mainland.
Some of the other mainland gamblers in trouble with Singaporean casinos are as follows:
In year 2012 Resorts World sues gambler Kuok Sio Kun in Singapore to recover US$1.8 million. Marina Bay Sands sues China in 2015 For You Group chairman Chen Huaide over some US$2.8 million in debt. Last year in 2016 Marina Bay Sands sues Xiao Wenge, former chairman of DMG Entertainment, for unpaid debts worth about US$12 million according to South China Morning Post