Recovering debts owed to Singapore casinos by mainland Chinese almost irrecoverable

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Singapore’s casinos have a problem with attracting revenue from mainland tourists, and face even more problems trying to recover their debts from Chinese gamblers, who simply have to flee back to China to evade payment.

Channel NewsAsia reported recently that according to a Hong Kong court writ, Kong Linghui, one of China’s best-known table tennis players and now head coach of the country’s national women’s team, is facing a HK$2.55 million (US$327,000) lawsuit over a gambling debt to a luxury hotel in Singapore.

According to Bloomberg, lawsuits against errant gamblers, like the one against Kong Linghui, are on the rise from 2 in 2013 to 49 in 2014. Part of the reason for this predicament is because Singapore does not have a reciprocal enforcement of judgements with China. It only has one such arrangement with Hong Kong.

This reciprocal enforcement of judgements allows decisions made in Singapore courts, such as the judgements on the recovery of debts, to be enforced in foreign territory. This is the reason why Marina Bay Sands was able to sue Kong Linghui to try and recover HK$2.55 owed in gambling debt.

Last year, over 2.86 million Chinese tourists stopped over in Singapore, a 36% increase since the previous year. However, this number is still far from the figures in Macau, which see some 20 million mainland Chinese gamblers per year.

Another problem hindering the growth in mainland Chinese gamblers is the island’s strict gambling laws, which has so far allowed only 3 licensed money lenders to act as a source of gambling funds for visiting tourists. In Macau, over 200 such outlets are available. Casinos in Macau are also not restricted to “legal means” to coerce gamblers into paying their debts.