A gambler has been found beaten to death in a Macau guesthouse, allegedly over unpaid casino debts, reports the Macau Times.
The unnamed victim, aged 40, had been held captive at the boarding house by three loan sharks, who had loaned him HKD50,000 ($6,373; £4,863). When the man lost all the cash at one of Macau’s casinos, the trio gagged him and beat him to death with fists, shoes, and belts over the course of two days.
One killer confesses
According to the police, one of the loan sharks confessed to the homicide, which happened on Saturday, May 4. The police then moved in to arrest the other two loan sharks in the Outer Harbor district. The three suspects are aged between 29 and 34 and come from mainland China.
Leng Kam Lon, a spokesperson for Macau’s judiciary police service, said: “His three creditors have, several times, used their belts and slippers to beat him in order to force him to repay the debt. They did a video shooting of their beating process using their cell phones, and sent the video clip to the victim’s family hurrying them to repay the debt.”
He added that the victim, who also came from mainland China, “had been gagged so that he could not call for help.”
According to the law in Macau, kidnapping leading to death carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.
The Public Prosecutions Office in Macau confirmed Monday that the three loan sharks had allegedly engaged in “violent behavior” and kidnapped the victim, an aggravated offense linked to organized crime in this case, and “gambling-related usury.”
The PPO spokesperson added that the suspects are all in custody awaiting trial.
One of the three, according to Leng, was deported from Macau in 2018 for alleged usury. Macau law defines this as the illegal loaning of money at very high interest rates. Police believe he returned to Macau illegally in March.
All three suspects were engaged in “tip hustling,” advising casino gamblers on how to beat the tables. Tip hustlers also try to persuade gamblers to follow them to other betting locations, which could be illicit gambling dens.
Macau’s casino troubles
This murder is not the first linked to Macau’s gambling scene. The island is the only part of Chinese territory where gambling is legal. Its casinos draw mainland Chinese, as well as wealthy high-rollers from across Asia and beyond.
Last February, a 41-year-old man from mainland China was found knifed to death in his hotel room at the Sands Casino. Police gave no further details. Sands Casino, owned by US casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, also declined to comment during the investigation.
At the time, Wong Sio Chak, the Secretary for Security in Macau, revealed that loan sharking offenses linked to gambling had risen by 25.9% in 2018.
This latest killing will worry casino operators in the former Portuguese colony. While homicide is rare in Macau, two murders in the space of three months will not be good for business. The gambling scene there is infiltrated by Chinese triads that are involved in loan sharking, money laundering, extortion, prostitution, and murder.
The junket operators are also linked to violent crime. Junket operators are the “concierges” of the casinos – third parties who earn fees for bringing wealthy Chinese gamblers to the premises. Their slim profit margins are sometimes an inducement to commit robbery or extortion.
This week’s murder comes at a time when gaming revenues in Macau are falling. In April, revenues were down by 8.3% to $2.9bn (£2.2bn). That was the fastest fall since June 2016.
The sluggish Chinese economy is a major reason for the casinos’ financial woes. Furthermore, they rely on wealthy high-rollers to keep the profits ticking over. Many of them come to play baccarat, which generates around 90% of gaming revenues in Macau’s casinos. These VIP players are responsible for some 60% of those revenues. But as the Chinese economy falters, fewer of them are choosing to fly in to gamble.