Local businessman loses $26m at RWS casino over 3 days

Local businessman loses $26m at RWS casino over 3 days
05:55 AM Aug 18, 2010
by Conrad Raj
Today Exclusive

SINGAPORE – In what is said to be one of the biggest losses yet at a Singapore casino, a local businessman lost $26.3 million over three days of gambling in June. This included a staggering $18 million that he burned in one day alone, playing baccarat – a card game – at $400,000 a hand.

According to documents that Today has obtained, the businessman’s tale of woe began in March, just weeks after Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) opened, when he was granted a credit line of $500,000 by the casino.

The Singaporean, who is consulting a top local law firm about possible legal action against the casino, claimed that the casino at no time performed any background checks on his credit-worthiness or his financial capacity. He had simply filled in an application form, deposited $100,000 and handed over a signed blank cheque, he claimed.

Subsequently, in April, the casino increased his credit line to $2 million, he told his lawyers. In his 50s, the businessman is a managing director of a multi-million-dollar company.

Over the weeks, he reportedly won or lost several hundred thousand dollars each time he visited the casino, with his losses running as high as $6 million in the course of a single session. To draw on his credit line, he said, he signed a form and was given the requisite amount of chips.

In early June, he made his biggest loss of $18 million yet in one session. Two days later, he went back to the casino and recouped some $3.7 million – but then two days after, he lost a further $11 million.

At one point during this third session when his losses crossed the $4-million mark, so the businessman claimed, his girlfriend started crying and pleaded with one of RWS’ senior officers to stop providing him with more chips on credit.

The same officer, he claimed, had repeatedly assured him over the course of the gambling sessions that the casino was prepared to extend him further credit, even though his limit had long since been exceeded.

Of his $26.3 million loss, the businessman repaid $10 million almost immediately.

The businessman claims to have then met with RWS chief executive Tan Yee Teck, who offered him a “rolling figure” – which amounts to a discount – of $3.3 million.

According to the legal documents, dated July 22, the gambler owed RWS some $13 million at that point in time. It is unknown if the debt has since been settled.

When contacted, an RWS spokesperson said the group does not comment on its customers.

The businessman’s lawyers have advised him to explore if an amicable resolution can be reached with the casino. But they also think he may have a case of negligence, breach of contract or breach of statutory duty against the casino.

Under the Casino Control (Credit) Regulations, an operator who enters into a credit agreement with a patron should, apart from specifying a credit limit, develop and implement criteria to assess the patron’s creditworthiness. The operator must also have approval procedures for any increase in the credit limit.

In the lawyers’ view, by substantially exceeding their client’s earlier limits – by more than 60 times the original limit of $500,000, and 15 times the April limit of $2 million within a few hours to enable him to continue gambling “RWS had encouraged irresponsible gambling and had breached the duty of care owed to” the businessman.

RWS’ conduct of continuing to pile on credit effectively rendered the concept of a credit limit meaningless, the lawyers argued. This was more so as the person in question was not in the proper frame of mind to decide on the increases, they said.

In other countries, there have been several instances of patrons suing casinos for their losses, cases which the courts have dismissed. Courts in other jurisdictions have noted among other things, that the casino was not bound to protect a gambler from his desire to wager his wealth.

Despite this, the Senior Counsel from the local law firm recommended writing to RWS. “In the letter, the issues concerning RWS’ failure to promote responsible gambling … can be raised. Hopefully, this may encourage RWS to offer a haircut that would be acceptable to you …” he wrote.

Genting Singapore’s turned in a sterling net profit of $397 million for the quarter ended June 30, compared to a loss of $50.7 million a year ago. Revenues rose to $979 million from $120 million a year ago.

According to DMG Research, at the current rate, Singapore is already the second largest casino market in Asia after Macau, and could overtake the Las Vegas strip as the second largest casino market in the world after Macau in the next two to three years. The firm estimates that the two casinos here rake in over $16 million a day.

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