The Venetian Macau, one of the four Macau casinos owned by the Chinese arm of casino king Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, has sued two high rollers from mainland China for nonpayment of gambling debts.

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Macau has become one of the largest gambling markets in the world because of wealthy high rollers from mainland China who travel all the way to Macau to play high-stakes poker as gambling is illegal in mainland China. These wealthy mainland Chinese are assisted by middlemen, who not only arrange their travel and stay in Macau, but also supply large gambling loans as the law-enforcement agencies in Beijing prevent them from carrying large sums of money into Macau.

Retrieving gambling debts from mainland Chinese high rollers is difficult because the courts in mainland China refuse to recognize gambling debts. The Venetian Macau has therefore filed two separate cases in the high court of Hong Kong, seeking retrieval of around $4.5 million from its former high-stakes customers.

According to the lawsuit, Zou Yunyu had borrowed $3 million and Xie Xiaoqing had borrowed $1.5 million directly from the casino. The two had lost the entire amount playing high-stakes games in no time.

Zou used to feature on lists of the richest people in China. One of her companies, Shanghai Gaoyan Property Group, was worth $220 million, according to a 2008 Forbes report. According to the Hong Kong press, Xie was an entrepreneur and a deputy to the Hubei provincial legislature.

According to the case filed against Zou, the Venetian Macau lent her a sum of HK$30 million on September 30, 2011. The casino lent Xie a sum of HK$10 million on April 1, 2012 and another HK$2 million a couple of days later. The two were expected to pay back the full amount in 15 days, failing which the casino could charge 18% interest on the rest of the unpaid amount. Zou paid three monthly installments of HK$2 million each in 2012 and then made no more payments. Xie, on the other hand, repaid HK$200,000 in September and then stopped making payments.

The money lent to the two high rollers is not a big amount for Las Vegas Sands, which raked in profits of $350 million in Q3 last fiscal year. Over 90 percent of these profits have been contributed by Sands China, the Macau branch of the company. Macau itself reported 13.5 percent rise in gambling revenues in 2012, having earned $38 billion.

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