Australia casino sues Singaporean high roller to recover S$41.4 million in alleged gambling debts

Australia casino sues Singaporean high roller to recover S$41.4 million in alleged gambling debts

The Star Gold Coast
Screengrab from Google Street View of The Star Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

SINGAPORE: A casino in Australia is suing a Singaporean businessman to recover A$43.2 million (S$41.4 million) that he allegedly lost at its tables.

Wong Yew Choy, 55, purportedly lost the money in baccarat - a type of casino card game - at The Star Gold Coast casino in Queensland last year.

Lawyers for The Star Entertainment QLD, which runs the 33-year-old casino, said in court documents filed in February that Dr Wong had issued two cheques made payable to the casino for the sum of A$50 million in total.

The casino claims it then issued him purchase vouchers in the same value which he used to exchange for gaming chips at The Star Gold Coast last year.

Dr Wong also issued the casino a replacement cheque for the purpose of paying any outstanding sums.

Around early September last year, Dr Wong incurred debts of A$43.2 million at the casino, it said in its statement of claim. He then filled out the details in the replacement cheque for about A$45 million, but the cheque bounced.

The casino demanded payment for the A$43.2 million in December last year. It sued Dr Wong a few months later after he failed to make payment.

On top of that sum, the casino is also seeking interest at a rate of 5.33 per cent and costs.

DEFENDANT HIGHLY VALUED, RESPECTED GLOBAL CASINO PATRON, SAYS LAWYER

Dr Wong's lawyer Abraham Vergis said in his statement of defence that his client is a "highly valued and respected patron of casinos around the world" who is regularly given concessionary rebates and incentive packages by casinos.

He wrote that a marketing representative from the casino sent Dr Wong numerous text messages around April 2018 to July 2018, inviting him to patronise The Star. 

The casino purportedly gave Dr Wong special rebates and incentive packages, including the use of a private jet for his trip and an upfront payment of A$100,000 to Dr Wong as "lucky money" to be used for gambling.

Dr Wong denied incurring the A$43.2 million in debt, saying instead that he had made an agreement with the casino around August 2018 that he would not have to pay for any losses incurred up to end July 2018.

He claimed that in this agreement, the casino agreed that "no further mistakes would be made by The Star's dealers" when attending to Dr Wong, and that Dr Wong would not be required to pay for any losses incurred "if there was a further mistake".

Dr Wong's lawyer said in court documents that a dealer at The Star had mistakenly exposed a hand dealt to Dr Wong instead of allowing Dr Wong to turn over his card on his own during baccarat games in his private salon at The Star in July last year.

Dr Wong highlighted this mistake, but the dealer repeated it the next day, greatly affecting Dr Wong's enjoyment of the game, his ability to play and his performance, claimed his lawyer.

"In addition, Dr Wong felt that he was the sole target of these mistakes as these mistakes did not appear to occur to other members of his entourage who were similarly gaming at The Star," wrote the lawyer.

These mistakes were acknowledged in writing by The Star's gaming area manager at Dr Wong's request.

DEFENDANT CLAIMS CASINO COO GAVE HIM GUARANTEE

After this, Dr Wong stopped gambling and instead spent time at his private salon with the other members of his entourage.

According to Dr Wong's defence statement, the chief operating officer of The Star approached Dr Wong the next day to apologise for the mistakes and ask him to continue gambling.

Dr Wong claimed he told the COO that he will not pay for any of the losses incurred up to that point on account of the mistakes made, that he will agree to continue gambling only if no further mistakes were made, and that he will not pay for any losses at all if any more mistakes were made.

According to Dr Wong, the COO agreed and gave Dr Wong a letter he asked for, guaranteeing that the mistakes had occurred and that no further ones would be made.

After receiving the letter, Dr Wong resumed his gambling but the dealer allegedly made the same mistake again. The businessman immediately stopped gambling and later instructed his bank to stop payment on the replacement cheque.

A spokesman for The Star told CNA it was "disappointed" that it has been forced to escalate the matter to Singapore's High Court.

"However, we are pursuing the debt vigorously. We would not be wasting the court's time unless we felt our position was extremely robust," said the spokesman.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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