Star chases high roller for $43 million

By Mia Chapman Updated
New light on Queensland probe into Star

An Australian casino operator has doubled down on its bid to sue an Asian high roller gambling for a debt racked up at its Gold Coast casino.

The Canberra Times reports that the Star Entertainment Group is suing Dr Wong Yew Choy for allegedly dishonouring a blank cheque after a five-day losing streak playing baccarat at The Star Gold Coast.

It is alleged that Dr Wong owes up to $43 million.

After losing an international bid to pursue Dr Wong over the debt in Singapore, Star Casino has been granted leave to pursue the billionaire in the Queensland Supreme Court.

The well-known Asian gambler had been lured to the Gold Coast casino as part of a marketing junket in July 2018.

The gambling mogul opened his account with a $40 million cheque to buy gaming chips before hitting the baccarat table.

Within three days, the billionaire lost the entire $40 million, documents lodged in Queensland Supreme Court reveal.

Undeterred by the massive loss, the billionaire splashed out another $10 million in chips.

After seven days at the tables, Dr Wong left The Star owing $43,209,853.34, including a room tab topping more than $420,000.

After returning to Singapore, Dr Wong stopped payment on a blank cheque he signed to cover his losses incurred during the stay.

Singapore court dismissed Star’s lawsuit

In 2019, the Singapore court dismissed The Star’s lawsuit against Wong, seeking to recover his gambling debts.

The court cited the SingaporeCivil Law Act prohibiting the government from assisting foreign companies seeking to recover debts related to overseas gambling.

“The claims against me are therefore frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of the court process,” Dr Wong claimed.

International Judge Jeremy Cooke favoured Dr Wong, ordering the claim be struck out and the VIP high roller be paid $20,000 plus costs.

However, Star Entertainment has refused to fold, taking its legal fight to the Queensland Supreme Court.

Dr Wong filed a conditional notice of intention to defend, disputing the court’s jurisdiction and arguing the proceedings to be an abuse of process.

However, last Wednesday, Justice Thomas Bradley dismissed Dr Wong’s application to dismiss or set aside The Star’s legal action.

“Star has pleaded a relatively straightforward claim in damages, including under the Cheques Act,” Justice Bradley said.

“I am not persuaded that allowing the proceeding to continue will result in Dr Wong incurring a serious and unfair burden, prejudice or damage or cause him any serious and unjustified trouble or harassment in defending himself.”

“If it were dismissed or stayed, Star would be prevented from having its claim against Dr Wong determined on its merits.

“That would be an injustice.”

Both parties have been ordered to make written submissions on costs, with the matter expected to be heard this year.

Singapore tourist arrivals decline after torrid 2020

The number of visitors arriving to Singapore in 2020 declined almost 90 per cent, while the outlook for tourism arrivals and receipts is likely to remain weak in 2020.

GGR Asia reported in February that Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority said in its annual report for 2019-20 that most users of Singapore’s two casino complexes – Resorts World Sentosa, promoted by Genting Singapore and Marina Bay Sands, promoted by a unit of United States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp, are non-Singaporeans.

A November note from Maybank Investment Bank Bhd, suggested that Genting Singapore’s return to profit in the third quarter had been aided by local players, amid the widespread travel restrictions around the region.

Of the 2.74 million visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2020, around 88.4 per cent or 2.42 million were recorded for the first two months of that year, according to the tourism board’s latest statistics.

Southeast Asia was the largest single source region, providing 896,550 arrivals.

The tally was nevertheless an 86.5 per cent year-on-year decline.

Singapore had 2.16 million overnight visitors for 2020, an 85.1 per cent year-on-year decline.

The average length of stay among all visitors was 4.29 days, the official data indicate.

The city-state has faced “unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures”, which led to the decline in its visitor tally and tourism receipts, the tourism board statement said.

Tourism receipts in the first three quarters of 2020 declined by 78.4 per cent year-on-year to US$3.3 billion.

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