Casino Boom Spotlights Adelson's Chinese Links

U.S. Regulators Ill-Equipped To Keep Track of Macau Crooks

Under the Table: Investigators are ill-equipped to deal with problems posed by Chinese underworld involvement in Macau casinos like those owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
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Under the Table: Investigators are ill-equipped to deal with problems posed by Chinese underworld involvement in Macau casinos like those owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

By Reuters

Published October 24, 2012.
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The Control Board’s three members are appointed by the Nevada governor for four-year terms. If all agree, they can bring formal complaints against companies or individuals before the five governor-appointed members of the Gaming Commission, who serve as part-time judges.

Over the decades the Control Board has conducted countless background investigations of casino investors and executives, rarely rejecting any licenses in public. (When it does, the Gaming Commission typically supports the decision.)

The rules warn against conduct or associations “which might reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the development of the industry.” The policing is designed not mainly to help consumers or investors but to help the industry itself.

“Nevada’s approach has really been very business-friendly,” said Patrick Wynn, who retired in 2010 after 19 years at the Control Board, finishing as deputy chief of investigations. “They’ve always looked toward what can it do for the state, what can it do for the economy.”

A majority of the current Commission members or their firms have worked for casinos in the past, and many Control Board veterans go on to work directly for those they have overseen. The laws grant wide discretion to the regulators as to whether or not to act on any particular issue.

Nevada’s regulations, combined with the rise of corporate investment in the gaming business, have fulfilled their principal mandate of blocking outright mob control of the casinos. But even though Nevada demands the right to approve its licensees’ ventures elsewhere, gambling’s surge abroad has made the state’s job much more difficult, investigators and industry executives said.

That’s especially true in Macau, the former Portuguese colony that reverted to Chinese dominion in 1999. The only place in China where gambling is legal, Macau opened its doors to Western casinos nearly a decade ago.

Sands, Wynn and MGM all plunged in, and soon found themselves in close association with junket operators - middlemen that organize trips to the casinos, largely from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. Collectively they’re responsible for some 70 percent of the Macau gambling trade.


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