The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 501 commends the government of New South Wales, Australia and its Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority for their recent regulatory and enforcement actions against VIP-junket activity in the gambling industry.
The modern VIP-junket model, in which junket agents recruit and often issue credit to high rollers (many from mainland China) to gamble in exclusive VIP rooms, originated in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China-and the world’s largest gambling market. From Macau, the junket model has in recent years spread to other gambling jurisdictions throughout the eastern hemisphere, including the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea, as well as Australia and open seas casino cruise ships. Still, to this day Macau remains the hub for the VIP-junket industry.
But as established in a wide body of government investigations, court cases, academic articles and mainstream news reporting, the Macau-based VIP-junket model has long been intertwined with organized crime groups and money laundering, including to the present day. An intractable issue for junkets is that gambling-related debt collection is illegal in mainland China, so junkets have historically relied on extrajudicial means to make good on loans which in turn opens the door to organized crime, loan sharking and money laundering.
Gambling regulators across the globe, including in the United States, charged with mitigating organized crime and money laundering risks have shown little rigor in truly investigating and regulating VIP-junket activity. This negligence has in effect encouraged the proliferation of this model beyond Macau. In the United States, local gambling regulators have a responsibility to ensure that their licensees and respective ownership groups operate with probity, both domestically and abroad.
Therefore, we praise the recent actions taken by the government of New South Wales, particularly its February 2021 investigatory report on VIP-junket activity in Australia, referred to as the “Bergin Report”. The report represents a new gold standard for the gambling regulatory community, specifically naming Macau-based junkets that operated in Australia, including SunCity Group and Neptune Guangdong Group, and disclosing the most robust findings on these junkets of any regulator to date. Active government intervention helped ensure that junkets with reputed ties to organized crime and money laundering ceased operations at targeted casinos.
Our organization has previously performed extensive research on Macau-based junkets, including some identified in the Bergin Report, and published our findings for public use. With the New South Wales government setting a new bar for VIP-junket investigations and using the Bergin Report as a roadmap, we call on gambling regulators across the world to meet and exceed this standard. Operating Engineers, Local 501 intends to renew our own research project into VIP-junkets and their ancillary activities and serve as a resource for government regulators and the general public in this vital effort.
The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 501 represents over 2,000 members working in casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada.