| HONG KONG
HONG KONG Aug 29 Hustler, cheater, robber,
Gamblers who skip out on casino debts in Macau risk being
branded with these monikers and having personal details made
public by a website that says it has helped to recover 50
million yuan ($8 million) so far.
But the novel strategy to combat bad debts in the world's
largest gambling destination is under scrutiny from the police
for possibly breaking the law and from the Chinese territory's
gaming authority over privacy concerns.
The bilingual website, called Wonderful World in English,
features a blacklist of more than 70 people from across China
who it says have failed to repay gambling debts ranging from
thousands to millions of yuan.
Photographs of alleged deadbeats, along with their date of
birth and marital status, are displayed prominently. A bounty is
often offered for help in tracking them down.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony and the only place in
China where casinos are allowed, raked in $38 billion in gaming
revenues last year, with 70 percent of that coming from the
lucrative VIP sector.
Collecting gambling debts is illegal in China, which makes
Macau's 35 casinos heavily reliant on junkets - companies or
agents that lure high rollers - to settle any debts. The top
junkets are sprawling conglomerates with thousands of employees
and deep pockets that allow them to lend millions to gamblers.
In one entry on the site, a young man from northern China is
alleged to owe tens of millions of yuan from a loan dating back
to 2011. The photo shows him wearing glasses and a blue shirt as
he drives a car. His occupation is listed as "idling away his
time" and his hobbies as "eating, being merry and gambling".
He was given a danger rating of 95 percent, meaning the
likelihood that he will not repay his debts. The danger levels
of other alleged debtors range from 90 percent to 100 percent.
Macau is not alone. The two casinos in Singapore, also a
popular destination for Chinese gamblers, have had problems with
high rollers who have been given large lines of credit and then
left the country without paying their debts.
Wonderful World was launched a year ago as a news and
entertainment site, but began the blacklist of gamblers two
months ago on the suggestion of a friend, an administrator who
gave his name as Mr. Teng told Reuters.
The personal information is provided by the creditors. The
site does not charge for the postings, take a cut of recovered
money or work in conjunction with Macau's junkets or casino
operators, Teng said.
While the site is a good way to track down minor deadbeats,
it is unlikely to be used much by big junkets who deal in larger
volumes and have extensive connections and knowledge of debtors'
assets, said a Macau-based junket agent.
The police are investigating the site and assembling an
internal report, a spokeswoman said, declining further comment.
Teng said Wonderful World's operators are cooperating with
the police and are keen to continue providing the free platform.
"The most important thing is we want more people to see our
website," he said.