The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently in the process of establishing links among high-roller junkets in Macau, high-stakes poker games, and online sports betting.
In July, the FBI conducted a raid on luxury villas at Caesars Palace, a hotel casino resort belonging to Caesars Entertainment Corporation in Las Vegas. A group of junkets and their associates were staying in those villas when the World Series of Poker (WSOP) was in progress in Las Vegas and the World Cup Soccer Tournament was being played in Brazil.
According to court documents, Caesars Palace had allowed the junkets to stay at the five luxury villas for free. In addition, the hotel casino had also extended casino credit of $90 million to the group. Caesars Palace says that the luxury villas come with private swimming pools and grand pianos, along with other luxury features.
Court documents also say that Caesars Palace became suspicious about the group and alerted the FBI, which conducted a raid on the villas. The hotel casino staff got suspicious when the junkets requested sophisticated electronic goods so that they could watch the World Cup. As per the guests’ requests, the hotel casino installed 8 computers with 20 monitors, DSL lines, three TV sets, and Wi-Fi in one of the villas. Nineteen keys were provided to the door of this villa.
On July 29, the eight Asians, including Paul Phua, were indicted by a federal judge for operating an illegal sports betting facility from Caesars Palace. The FBI says that Phua owns one of the biggest sports betting companies in the world. He is also a widely acclaimed poker pro who has helped popularize poker in Macau. The FBI has alleged that Phua is associated with organized criminals.
Six weeks back, Phua was arrested for running illegal gambling services in Macau and was later released. Supported by prominent poker pros, Phua has pleaded not guilty, claiming that he was not running any illegal sports betting business and that he has nothing to do with organized criminals.
The FBI has been trying to find a connection among sports betting businesses, Chinese junkets, and high-stakes online poker from the past several years. Junkets have helped Chinese high-rollers reach Macau casinos, where they could play high-stakes baccarat. Clients who came through junkets contributed to nearly two-thirds of the revenue generated by Macau casinos in 2013. Junket activity has increased all over the world, especially in the US, Asia, and the UK.