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Star Casino chasing more than $40m from Singaporean high roller

Wed, Apr 3, 11:18am by Staff Writer

The Star Casino in Queensland is seeking more than A$43 million from a high roller gambler it flew in to play on its tables.

Wong Yer Choy from Singapore argues that the casino in Queensland made mistakes on the baccarat games he played in and he should not have to pay up.

The amount being sought by The Star Entertainment Group is believed to be the largest casino debt sum file in the Australian High Court, according to The New Paper.

Dr Wong, in his defence papers, is described as a highly respected patron of casinos around the globe, who is regularly provided with concessions and incentive packages.

He had been invited by the Star’s marketing representative to patronize the casino, and was offered the use of a private jet for his trip and A$200,000 as “lucky money”.

The Star claimed he requested a cheque cashing facility for A$40 million, which it approved. This was increased by another A$10 million.

By September 7, Dr Wong had lost A$43.2 million. The casino wrote the amount into the “blank” cheque which Dr Wong had given, to be drawn from a Singapore-based bank.

The cheque later bounced, which subsequently led to the casino filing a suit against him in the High Court last month through lawyer Alfred Lim of Fullerton Law Chambers.

Dr Wong is defended by Mr Abraham Vergis of Providence Law Asia and disputes the casino’s version of events.

He said he did not request a credit cheque facility but was offered the A$40 million facility to obtain chips on credit in early July, which was later raised to A$50 million on July 29, which he accepted.

He provided a blank cheque on arrival on July 26 and in return, received chips worth A$40 million and later, a further A$10 million.

Dr Wong claims there were mistakes made by the dealer when he played baccarat. These mistakes were acknowledged in writing by a casino official.

He decided not to continue gambling beyond July 29, but claims he was persuaded otherwise by a senior executive the next day.

Dr Wong said it was made clear that he would not pay for any losses up until then on account of the mistakes, and would only continue if there were no further mistakes. If there were, he would not be liable for them as well.

He said he was given a letter by the Star’s chief operating officer on August 1, which acknowledged that mistakes had occurred. The letter also guaranteed no further mistakes would be made.

But when he continued gambling on August 1, the dealer made the same mistake. That made Dr Wong to stop.

After returning to Singapore, the 55-year-old ordered his bank to stop payment on the cheque, as he no longer owed the casino anything based on what was agreed upon, he said.

“Dr Wong will contest the Singapore case as a matter of principle and intends to fully vindicate his decision to stop payment,” Mr Vergis said.

VIP turnover down at The Star

It has been a challenging time for VIP turnover at the Star, with a 33 per cent drop reported in revenue in the six months to December 31, 2018 to $20.7 billion according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The house win rate was above average against Asian gamblers, mainly from China, in the half-year period, which helped drive the decline in turnover, The Star said on Thursday.

It explained that gamblers tended to play fewer hands and would tap out earlier when they lost their money faster.

Chief executive of The Star Entertainment Group Matt Bekier said there had also been a noticeable increase in “caution” exercised by wealthy foreign gamblers.

“The caution relates to uncertainly relating to the trade war between China and the US,” he said.

“They just don’t take as much risk as they might have 12 months ago.”

The Chinese economy recorded its slowest rate of growth in nearly three decades in 2018 after simmering trade tensions with America.

The Star’s rival casino company in Australia, Crown Resorts, this week also revealed that it had suffered a drop in spending by high-roller gamblers.

Crown’s executive chairman John Alexander also attributed this to China’s softening economy.

Gamblers operators across the globe have been gripped by growing uncertainty about how the fortunes of their lucrative high roller programs, where mainly Chinese punters playing baccarat can turn over thousands of dollars a hand.

Star Entertainment runs casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast said that it believed the global VIP gambling market remained robust and a dip won’t be a cause for long-term concern.

“Once the uncertainty settles down, I expect it to come back,” Mr Bekier said. “We are not pushing the panic button … we are executing our strategies.”

Star’s revenues fell short of Macquarie Research’s expected $135 million and JP Morgan’s forecasting of $129 million to net $124 million, a 2.4 per cent downfall after tax in the half year period.

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