Australia’s Star Entertainment Group has won the right to pursue an A$43 million (US$32.7 million) gambling debt in Queensland’s Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Justice Thomas Bradley tossed an application to dismiss the case by the lawyers of “Dr” Wong Yew Choy, the billionaire owner of Asian online betting company, SBOBET.
Wong is the chairman of Celton Manx, which owns SBOBET, the first Asian betting company to sponsor an English Premier League team, West Ham United.
Wong and his sister Genni own the Zac Stable in Singapore, which has steadily produced winning racehorses trained by Australian Clifford Brown.
But Star accuses Wong of issuing bouncy checks for eight-figure sums.
Wong says he shouldn’t have to pay the alleged debt because the dealers in his baccarat games were making too many mistakes. He calls the suit “frivolous, vexatious, or otherwise an abuse of the court process.”
In 2019, a judge in Wong’s native Singapore sided with the gambler, citing the Singapore Civil Law Act. This prohibits the city state’s government from assisting foreign companies seeking to recoup debts related to overseas gambling.
To add insult to injury, the court ordered Star to pay Wong A$20,000 (US$15,000) in legal costs.
But on Wednesday, Bradley said Star had a “relatively straightforward” claim for damages and that it would be an “injustice” not to have its claim “determined on its merits.”
$50 Million Line of Credit
Notorious baccarat whale Wong was flown into Star’s Gold Coast Casino on one of the company’s private jets in July 2018. It was done in the hope that he would drop a fortune at its high-stakes tables. And he didn’t disappoint.
It’s not unusual for casino VIP players to be extended lines of credit to gamble with, and then to settle up at a later date. In this case, Wong offered Star management a blank check as security, leaving the casino to fill in the amount at the end of the session.
Wong is described by his lawyers as a “highly respected patron of casinos around the world, who is regularly provided with concessions and incentive packages.”
He was initially offered A$40 million (US$30 million) in chips, which he lost within three days, according to court documents. He was then given an extra A$10 million (US$7.6 million). After seven days at the tables, he left the casino A$43,209,853.34 (US$32,887,019.38) in the red, which included a hotel bill of over A$420,000 ($320,000).
Squeezing the Cards
In his defense, Wong claims that he resolved to stop gambling after losing the initial $40 million because he had become infuriated by dealer mistakes.
Asian baccarat VIPs often prefer their cards to be dealt face down so they can “squeeze” them like a poker player. It’s part of a superstitious ritual that involves rubbing the card and peeking around its edges.
The errors were acknowledged in writing by Star Casino officials, who were told by Wong that he would not be paying liabilities up to that point.
Wong was persuaded to continue for another $10 million (7.6 million), but only if there were no further mistakes. But according to Wong, they continued. When he returned to Singapore, he ordered his bank to stop the check, an action which he argues was in accordance with his agreement with Star.
The case is expected to be heard later this year.
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