Wynn Macau sues Chinese tycoon over $2.3m gambling debt

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn's Wynn Macau casino is suing a Chinese tycoon for HK$14 million (S$2.3 million) in gambling debts, the latest case of a casino in the world's biggest gaming hub using the courts to go after its money.

According to a writ filed in Hong Kong's High Court this week, the casino is seeking to get the money from tycoon Li Jun, who owns Beijing-based autos to property company Abest Group.

Macau, on China's southern coastline, is the only place in the country where people are allowed to gamble in casinos. But recovering gambling debts on the mainland is illegal. The case comes at a time when China's leadership is toeing a strict line on corruption and flagrant excess.

While Macau casinos such as Wynn are hungry for business from rich people form China, known as "big whale" gamblers, who can bet billions of yuan at a time, they run the risk of not being able to recover debts once the gamblers return to China.

Wynn's lawsuit against Mr Li follows earlier writs filed by the Venetian Macau, which sued Shanghai businesswoman Zou Yunyu and Mr Xie Xiaoqing, a deputy to the Hubei provincial People's Congress, in January this year.

Macau casinos lend directly to prominent gamblers only when sufficient due diligence and background checks have been done to ensure the casino has legal grounds to get the money back in foreign jurisdictions, casino executives say.

The writ showed Mr Li's address as Hong Kong's Four Season's Hotel. A telephone call to Mr Li's room was answered by a man who confirmed his name was Li Jun but said it was not him who was being sued by Wynn, but someone else. He declined to comment further.

This month, Mr Li broke into the home of a Hong Kong-based television star, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Hong Kong prosecutors. He was released on bail and has been barred from leaving Hong Kong, it added.