Study Indicates Macau's Gambling Junkets Dominated by Triads

Rumours of the involvement of Hong Kong Triads in Macau's multi-billion dollar gambling industry have been rife for years, and a recent study points to the fact that the rumours may have more than a little truth in them.

A three year study by research sociologists at Hong Kong’s City University has concluded that organised crime is at the heart of the gaming industry in the "The Las Vegas of the East".

The study, by T. Wing Lo and fellow academic Sharon Ingrid Kwok was published in published in the British Journal of Criminology,  titled “Triad Organized Crime in Macau Casinos: Extra-Legal Governance and Entrepreneurship”. During the course of their research, the pair interviewed ­triad members, police, government officials and casino VIP room ­operators.

According to the study, “The VIP-room operations are still dominated by triads to date. But they have readjusted their traditional intrusive role and reinvented harmonious business strategies to suit the market reality.”

The study focuses on the lucrative junket industry, an area in which Malaysian high rolling poker player and bookmaker Paul "MalACEsia" Phua was one of the biggest operators. Phua has previously been linked with the 14k triads by FBI agents investigating an illegal World Cup sports betting operation from villas inside Caesars Palace in 2014, although subsequently Malaysia's Minister of Home Affairs, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has spoken in defence of Phua, stating categorically that, "Mr. Phua is neither a member nor is he associated with the 14K Triad."

The report also found that despite denials to the contrary, that casino management were fully aware of the connections between VIP operators and the underworld and that in fact casino operators would specifically select the most powerful triads as their VIP managers in the pursuit of profit.

Conveniently,  according to the South China Morning Post, Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau said it was not aware of triads operating in VIP rooms. “So far we have not verified any triads selected by casinos or working with junkets,” Macau’s top casino regulator told news agency Lusa, adding that “appropriate measures” would be taken if irregularities were found.

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