Asian junket giant Suncity Group has reportedly been found unsuitable to operate in the Philippines after an official investigation uncovered proof that it may have been guilty of withholding funds from customers.
According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming, the Wednesday determination from the nation’s Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCor) regulator came only four months after the junket firm’s boss, Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, was arrested in China on charges that he had illicitly helped to facilitate cross-border gambling. The source detailed that Suncity Group has recently also been at the center of claims its business may have aided high-value individuals in laundering cash via links with organized crime syndicates.
PAGCor reportedly disclosed that it launched a formal probe into the business affairs of Suncity Group in August after receiving several complaints that the company was not allowing punters to access previously-deposited funds. The regulator went on to state that this exercise had subsequently uncovered ‘substantial evidence’ to support these allegations with the firm now thought to owe approximately $20.5 million to a club of 29 former customers.
Junket firms reportedly receive a commission for promoting partner land-based casinos to wealthy foreign gamblers while simultaneously handling such VIP’s travel, accommodation and banking or credit needs for amounts that can often run into the millions of dollars. Suncity Group purportedly moreover exited the lucrative Macau casino market altogether late last year while facing similar questions from this enclave’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau regulator.
To make matters worse and Inside Asian Gaming reported that Suncity Group has not been active in the casino market of the Philippines since at least December after having its VIP lounges inside facilities such as the 938-room City of Dreams Manila shuttered for much of last year owing to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, PAGCor reportedly pronounced that Suncity Group would be permitted to revive its business in the Philippines if it could repay all of the cash owed to customers and agree to bring in new procedures to ensure this ‘front money’ was not mingled with capital or operational funds. Nevertheless, this return option may be slim as the regulator purportedly furthermore attached a one-month deadline to April 20 on the implementation of these requirements.
For its part and Suncity Group reportedly last year asserted that it was planning to return all of the cash it owed players but was being hindered by a number of issues including the ‘absence of the account holder, the lack of proper and acceptable authorization for representatives, non-compliance with agreed withdrawal procedures and non-compliance with anti-money laundering safeguards.’