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Triads continue to dominate VIP rooms in Macau casinos

By David Amoruso

Just when you thought they were out… It turns out the Triads – the Chinese Mafia – continue to control gambling and loansharking in casinos in Macau, Asia’s gambling mecca. According to a report published in the British Journal of Criminology, Triad gangs have simply altered their way of doing business, becoming more low-key and more businesslike.

Chinese Triads have long been an intimidating presence in casinos in Hong Kong and Macau. Its members dominated the lucrative VIP rooms at various casinos and frequently went to war with each other over the territories.

After violence reached a peak during the late 1990s, authorities have cracked down on the Triads and busted infamous bosses like “Broken Tooth” on racketeering charges. Things quieted down and it seemed law enforcement had finally reestablished law and order on the casino floors.

However, according to the new report entitled “Triad Organized Crime in Macau Casinos: Extra-legal governance and entrepreneurship,” the Triads never really left. Rather, they changed up their game and modus operandi.

The report is written by T. Wing Lo, and Sharon Ingrid Kwok, two academics from City University of Hong Kong from the Department of Applied Social Sciences. They studied the Macau gaming scene for 30 months starting in 2012 all the way through to 2015, interviewing VIP room managers, operators and visitors, police, and Triad members.

Their study finds that the Triads have simply begun running a more businesslike operation, using front men inside the VIP rooms to oversee their interests. To continue running gambling junkets between Hong Kong, China, and Macau, Triads set up ghost companies, hiding the involvement of Triad leaders.

One “Chinese manager,” the report states, who was interviewed in February 2015, even claimed that the “blood brother of [14K Triad leader] ‘Broken Tooth’ operates a VIP room” and that “Broken Tooth” (photo right) himself works at the establishment following his release from prison in December 2013.

“New forms of betting and crime have emerged to meet the needs of high-end gamblers, thus resulting in the formation of a triad-enterprise hybrid that comprises territoriality and reputation of violence commonly found in extra-legal governance and the dynamic entrepreneurship of small firms,” the publication reads.

“[Triads] continue to treat the VIP rooms as their economic territories and provide extra-legal governance,” it concludes. “They monopolize the VIP rooms, treat them as their territories and ensure that rivals would not steal their whales [high-rollers]. They punish cheats and frauds that occur in their territories, where occasional use of violence is seen.”

That sounds like business as usual indeed.

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