By Joel Schectman and Koh Gui Qing
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nevada’s state gambling regulator is investigating allegations that Las Vegas Sands Corp casinos allowed high-stakes Chinese players to bet millions of dollars in other people’s names, according to people directly familiar with the investigation.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board “has made inquiries related to this matter and we’ve responded in a timely and transparent matter, as we always do,” said Ron Reese, a Sands spokesman.
As Las Vegas has sought to draw wealthy Chinese baccarat players, some casinos have allowed high-stakes players to gamble through frontmen who would sign the credit paperwork, a Reuters investigation published last month found.
The allegations against the Sands initially surfaced after Clark County prosecutors brought charges last year against two women accused of failing to repay millions of dollars in gambling debts at the Las Vegas Sands’ Venetian and Palazzo casinos.
Attorneys for the women, Jeffrey Setness and Kevin Rosenberg, said the two were actually shills — local housekeepers recruited with the cooperation of Sands personnel to take out millions of dollars in credit in their own names. The women would then sit near the actual players, allowing them to use the chips and gamble millions of dollars without a paper trail, the attorneys said.
Previously, a Sands spokesman said the company had no clear evidence anyone from the company asked the women to take out credit in other people’s names.
After the defense attorneys raised the counter-allegations, prosecutors dropped the charges this past spring during preliminary hearings in Las Vegas Justice Court.
The state’s gambling regulator, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, is investigating those allegations and whether the use of fronts violates the state’s bookkeeping regulations and broad “decency” requirements, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.
In recent years, state and federal authorities have scrutinized practices in Las Vegas casinos that allow gamblers to play without leaving a paper trail.
The Sands, for instance, paid $47 million in 2013 to settle a U.S. Department of Justice investigation after the discovery that an alleged Chinese–Mexican drug trafficker lost more than $84 million at the Venetian, according to a statement of facts the Sands agreed to as part of its settlement with the DOJ.
(Editing by Ronnie Greene)