If you were under the impression that the gambling industry and the law don’t really go hand-in-hand, prepare to have your mind blown! On Thursday, a report was released that indicated that U.S. intelligence may have used American-owned casinos in Macau to set an elaborate trap for Chinese bureaucrats gambling with public money. According to the ‘highly confidential’ report, the CIA operation in the Chinese gambling destination was originally prepared in 2010, but remained secret until being recently uncovered by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley.
The document, which was presented by Sands China Limited, the Macau branch of the famous gambling empire led by Las Vegas legend Sheldon Adelson, has become an integral part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the former head of Sands Macau Casinos, who is suing the company for wrongful dismissal. In short, the report reveals that Beijing suspected CIA and FBI agents of using casinos to blackmail wealthy Chinese officials.
According to the document, a reliable Chinese government official firmly believe that CIA and FBI operatives are stationed within the Sands in order to more closely monitor the gambling activity of mainland government officials. According to China’s internal central government agency, these activities include approximately $2 billion of lost funds annually. Officially, it is illegal for mainland Chinese visitors to transfer more than $50,000 each year to Macau for gambling purposes.
If the report is true, the gambling habits of high-ranking officials could be a major concern for the Chinese government. In particular, officials point to the possibility of becoming easy targets for pressure from foreign intelligence as a result of compromising debt. Sources in the report indicated that U.S. agents operating within the Sands commonly lured and entrapped mainland government officials in order to force them to cooperate with U.S. government interests.
Sands described the highly speculative report as ‘a collection of meaningless speculation’ that sounds ‘like an idea for a movie script’. However, the report follows significant tensions between the two countries as a result of China disallowing a U.S. embassy in the special administrative region. So, are U.S. government forces conspiring to trap Chinese officials gambling in Macau in order to sway the balance of power toward the West? If this report is to be believed, then there is, at least, some shred of truth behind the claim, but there is still plenty of investigation left to be done before the report can be confirmed.
In the meantime, Macau remains atop its perch as the biggest gambling destination on the planet. Despite recent slumps in revenue, the resilience of the industry should ensure that Macau remains a can’t-miss destination for casino fans for years to come. Whether you come across a CIA agent when at the slots or not, there’s little doubt that the mystery surrounding the U.S.-owned Sands Macau will continue to grow as time goes by. If that story gets you down, remember, there will never be any CIA agents hanging out at your favorite table game at Slots of Vegas!