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Law Enforcement
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Naming and shaming
Controversial Macau website targets deadbeat gamblers

Hustler, cheater, robber, rogue. 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 (approximately NT$245 million) so far. But the novel strategy to combat bad debts in the world's largest gambling destination is under scrutiny from the police 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 raked in US$38 billion (approximately NT$1.1 trillion) 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 deep pockets that allow them to lend millions to gamblers.

In one entry on the website, a young man from northern China is alleged to owe tens of millions of yuan from a loan dating back to 2011. He was given a danger rating of 95 percent, meaning the likelihood is that he will not repay his debts. The danger levels of other alleged debtors range from 90 to 100 percent.

Wonderful World was launched a year ago as a news and entertainment site, but began the blacklist of gamblers several months ago on the suggestion of a friend, an administrator who gave his name as Mr. Teng said. 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 have extensive connections and knowledge of debtors' assets, said a Macau-based junket agent. Teng said Wonderful World's operators are keen to continue providing the free platform. "The most important thing is that we want more people to see our website," he said.

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