In the Philippine Casino Kidnapped High-Roller Player
Phillipine police arrested 45 foreigners on charges of kidnapping on Thursday. The group kidnapped a 48-year old Singaporean woman from the real money casino Solaire in Manila.
Police said the gang, including people from China and Southeast Asia, was believed to be a loan-shark syndicate targeting foreign high-rollers. This is the 11th similar case in Manila since 2015.
Though Manila is one of the growing hubs of gambling of casinos in Asia. Several new real money casinos have opened in the past couple of years, but many Chinese high rollers avoid Philippine casinos, because they fear kidnappings and extortion attempts.
The group arrested included 2 Malaysians and 41 Chinese nationals. The original number of arrested was 43, but has been raised to 45. When the nationality of the subsequent arrests become known, it will be updated.
The gang of kidnappers are accused of targeting a foreign high roller, whom they first offered to bankroll, then later held in a hotel room nearby. The kidnappers filmed a ransom video and demanded money.
The woman abducted in the case was a 48-year old woman from Singapore. As she was losing a lot of money while gambling at Solaire Casino on July 17, she was approached by three women and a man. The four befriended the woman, who lent her money to continue gambling of casino.
Her new "friends" invited her to a second casino, but instead took her to a hotel room and would not let her go. Once there, they mistreated the woman and filmed a video of her. The group showed the video to relatives and demanded $180,000 in ransom money.
Instead of paying the ransom, the Philippine National Police rescued the woman the next day (July 18). When National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa began to investigate the group, he found a web of ties to the kidnappers.
Chief Dela Rosa said charges have been filed against the 2 Malaysians and 41 Chinese. This is the third mass arrest by Philippine authorities of Chinese nationals connected to illegal casino gambling within the past year.
Anti-Kidnapping Group Involved
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) of the Philippine National Police in Pasay City in making the arrests. The justice secretary said the 45 comprise two separate gangs which have been kidnapping gamblers for ransom in the past year or so.
Vitaliano Aguirre said,
“They are believed to be responsible for the series of kidnappings perpetrated against foreign nationals who are high-roller casino players in recent months. All the 45 foreign nationals were brought to the PNP-AKG headquarters in Camp Crame. They are still undergoing investigation and inquest.”
Due to the large number of Chinese nationals involved in the crime, Aguirre said that 2 members of China’s Ministry of Public Security have been assisting in the investigation.
Solaire Casino Statement
Solaire Casino, which is owned by Philippines-based Bloomberry Resorts Corp said it was working closely with authorities on the case. Bloomberry announced it does not tolerate loan sharks on its premises.
In a statement, the gaming company noted,
“Solaire continues to safeguard all its patrons to ensure their safety from unscrupulous personalities and activities.”
Enticing Chinese High Rollers to Manila Casinos
Shaun McCamley of Global Market Advisors in Bangkok said the kidnapping only compounds fears about Manila casinos. McCamley said,
“This incident will make it even harder for the operators to entice the Chinese high-rollers to visit.”
Last month, Resorts World Manila was the scene of a mass murder. A disgruntled former government worker tried to steal $2.6 million in casino chips, then set fire to some of the casino’s gaming tables. In the ensuing fire, 37 casino visitors died of smoke inhalation.
The gunman died in the ensuing fiasco, while Resorts World Manila had its gaming license temporarily suspended. The casino is owned (ultimately) by Genting Group, which operates casinos around the globe: Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore, Crockfords Casino in London, Resorts World New York City in Queens, and soon-to-be Resorts World Las Vegas.
In the wake of the Resorts World Manila tragedy, Philippine authorities are insisting on new security procedures at brick-and-mortar casinos in the Manila area. High profile changes need to be made, because the country has a public image problem. The Philippines represents a unique challenge for casino operators like Genting.