Judiciary police in the world's largest gambling hub Macau have arrested two men, a croupier and a security guard, over a colossal casino heist in which gaming chips equivalent to almost HK$48 million have been stolen from a VIP room inside the Wynn Macau.
Macau, a semi-autonomous, special administrative region, is the only area of China where casino gambling is deemed legal and so it's a favorite place for many mainland high rollers.
The massive heist occurred early Tuesday morning of January 16 at the mega casino Wynn Macau, owned by US gaming tycoon Steve Wynn.
According to police, the two men, aged 49 and 70, were arrested on Thursday January 18, were actually related to each other and they were Macau residents.
Local media TDM reported that the croupier told them he had huge gambling debts, and the guard was his uncle.
Just going by the surname Lei, the 49-year-old croupier had bagged the chips when the VIP room he was working in was ultimately empty at 7am, with no gamblers and only one other dealer was present. According to online reports, he yelled at his female co-worker, ordering her to stay quiet and not stop him, allegedly threatening her with a knife.
A spokeswoman said on Friday January 19 that Lei "shouted at his female colleague, ordering her to stay quiet and lie on the gaming table. Then he returned to his assigned gaming table and took out HK$47,895,000 worth of chips. Lei then stuffed the casino chips into a bag that he hid under his uniform. He then changed into plain clothes, used a guest entrance to leave the casino, and rode a motorcycle as his getaway vehicle. Later, he met with his security guard uncle, surnamed Ho, at a park in neighboring Taipa with the chips." Some of the stolen chips are said to have a nominal value of HK$1 million each.
Lei admitted guilt but refused to say where the stolen chips were hidden, whereas Ho denied committing any crime.
Authorities said that the stolen casino chips can only be exchanged for cash at gaming resorts which are owned by the same operator.
It is a fact that Macau has a reputation as a money-laundering center for illegal cashflows out of China.
Heists and theft in casinos are rare, but sometimes they do happen. On September last year, a Hong Kong police officer was accused of stealing gaming chips worth HK$800,000 from Macau's posh Cotai Strip.
CEO of Macau-based Inside Asian Gaming magazine Andrew Scott said that this latest robbery has rattled some in Macau, with major industry players now reviewing and studying how to beef up their security.
Scott said, "All the properties in Macau are thinking 'could this happen to us?' and they will be reviewing their procedures."
He also said there were "multiple tactics", in which a person who had stolen chips could bring them back to the system and therefore obtain financial gain. In over 30 years he's had in the industry, Scott said he had heard of at least a dozen other similar incidents around the world, "It's like a bank robbery - it's not an everyday event."
Wynn Macau, is one of six licensed operators in Macau, which enjoys revenues far surpassing its American counterpart. Owned by Wynn Resorts, Wynn Macau opened its doors on September 2006. It is a luxury-integrated resort in Sé, Macau, China, offering gaming services (314 table games, 958 slot machines) plus a hotel with 594 rooms and suites, shops, five restaurants, spa, salon, and a ‘Performance Lake'. In 2009, Wynn Macau became one of only five hotels in Asia to ever receive the Forbes Five-Star award.