Little action has been taken, so far, but reports continue to surface regarding the possible underworld involvement in the so-called “VIP” business in Macau. These are the Chinese junket agents who bring thousands of gamblers to Macau’s casinos.
Not only are they responsible for travel arrangements, the agents beat the restrictions placed on money leaving China by “loaning” cash to the players, most of whom favor baccarat as their game of choice. Such activity, officials say, fosters loan sharking.
Underworld activity in Macau, far less than what it was in the days when the enclave was under the protection of Portugal, has not been wiped out. That’s why the Macau police authorities have a growing concern as they look at the calendar.
“Broken Tooth” is returning.
In fact, the notorious “Broken Tooth” will be a free man on Dec. 1.
The reason the police are concerned is that “Broken Tooth” Koi was the underworld kingpin during the dark and murky gambling days that took place before Macau decided to make gaming a tourist attraction, a move that converted the territory into the world’s biggest gaming venue.
Meanwhile, Koi was serving the 14-year, seven-month sentence imposed in 1999 following years of violence and turmoil created in “the triad world” of Macau gambling.
Come December 1, Koi will walk out of the high-security prison in Coloane and a police task force will be waiting for him. Rumors are that Koi will attempt to return to his position as head of a VIP junket business that has brought tens of millions of gambling dollars to licensed casinos operated by Stanley Ho and his new competitors, Wynn Resorts Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International.
In a recent interview with the Macau Daily Times, Koi would not answer specifically when asked if he planned to return to the junket business. Instead, he responded that “the answer is already very clear.”
That is the fear law enforcement has expressed.
Currently, the VIP business is dominated by Koi’s former major rival, the Shui Fong gang. The Daily Times said they found sources in the industry who believe there is a high possibility Koi will try to take back his turf after regaining his freedom. Such a move, they believe, could return the street violence that prevailed prior to Macau changing its gaming laws and encouraging foreign investment.
Macau authorities blocked Koi’s attempts at early release beginning when he first applied for parole in 2008 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. Now, their fears have grown because his release comes at a time when gaming revenue is falling and junket operators are competing more intensely for survival.
Fearing problems, the police reportedly are setting up a special unit to watch Koi closely against any “possible trouble” in order to avoid “upsetting social security.”
Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.
Contact Ray at [email protected].