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The Macau Metro Monitor, January 25, 2013

SANDS BOLSTERS SAFEGUARDS AGAINST MONEY-LAUNDERING WSJ

LVS has stopped executing international money transfers for its VIP customers and is overhauling its compliance procedures, including no longer allow gamblers to transfer funds from their bank accounts under an alias.  Officials at the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network are considering proposing rules that would set down more specific anti-money-laundering requirements for casinos, said Steve Hudak, a spokesman for FinCEN.  The process is still in its early stages, he said. Sands has recently hired three former FBI agents to strengthen anti-money-laundering efforts and improve the background checks the company does on VIP customers and junket operators 

Sands has been negotiating with U.S. authorities to resolve a money-laundering investigation into whether the casino failed to alert officials about suspicious transactions of two high rollers at its Las Vegas casino

Mike Leven, president of LVS, said the current changes weren't prompted by specific government demands, but that Las Vegas Sands was restructuring its compliance functions to address increasing concerns from regulators.  "The world is changing. There are more people in government concerned about procedures," said Mr. Leven, speaking in an interview Wednesday at a conference in Los Angeles. "There are more international funds moving around and more stress about where the money comes from and where it's going."

Sands and other casino operators have allowed important clients to deposit money—on occasion millions of dollars at a time, in the case of Sands at least—in accounts in one country and use it in another for gambling, according to casinos executives and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.  Law enforcement authorities say they are concerned about the use of these types of transfers across international borders, particularly from junkets; without the more specific source-of-funds and other requirements that banks provide, those fund exchanges could carry a high risk of money laundering, they say.

Executives at Wynn and MGM said their anti-money-laundering procedures evolve as needed, and that no big overhauls are currently planned. Both companies said they use company accounts to transfer money for clients and that their procedures comply with regulations.

Regulatory changes could require casinos to collect identification records for high-end customers and do more research on the sources of funds from these customers, similar to the requirements faced by banks.

Treasury officials have been discussing the internal fund-transfer systems with casino operators.  Inside LVS, executives had expressed concerns about the system, saying it improperly bypassed the banking system.

SJM ANNOUNCES SALARY HIKE Macau Business

SJM announced a salary increase of 5-6% for all its employees effective from this month.  The gaming operator said in a statement that it would also offer a bonus payout for the year of 2012.  Employees with a monthly salary of MOP11,000 (US$1,375) or below will receive 175% of a month’s salary.  Other employees will receive a bonus of 125% of a month’s salary, which will not be less than MOP19,250.


SJM Holdings also announced it will increase meal allowances and extend rewards to employees who have not taken sick leave.  SJM is the first gaming operator to announce salary increases for 2013.

VENETIAN MACAU SUES DUO FOR GAMING DEBTS Macau Business

Venetian Macau is suing two mainlanders in Hong Kong over more than HK$30 million (US$3.9 million) in gaming debts.  According to the South China Morning Post, the operator is asking Zou Yunyu, owner of Shanghai Gaoyuan Property, and Xie Xiaoqing, former director the Goldbond Group, to pay back HK$23 million and HK$11 million, respectively.  The money was lent through credit agreements made separately between the operator and the two defendants in 2011 and last year, two writs filed with the High Court in Hong Kong state.  The Venetian Macau is also claiming the interest on the sum of the outstanding loans.

SHERATON'S SECOND TOWER READY Macau Business

The second tower of the Sheraton Macao Hotel, located at Sands Cotai Central casino resort, is ready.  Sands will organize a ceremony marking the completion of the tower on Monday (January 28).  Named “Earth Tower”, it features 2,067 rooms and suites, bringing the hotel’s total room count to 3,896.

With this new tower, the Sheraton Macao Hotel will become the city’s largest hotel, ahead of the Venetian Macao, which has over 2,800 rooms.  The property is also the biggest Sheraton-branded hotel in the world.

RAIL LINK ADDS EXPRESS BEFORE CHINESE NEW YEAR Macau Business

The Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway is adding an express train service before the Lunar New Year holiday in early February.  It will make only five stops, cutting up to 22 minutes from the 82-minute journey made by the regular service.

PRIVATE HOME PRICES UP 1.8% IN Q4: URA Channel News Asia

Singapore private home prices rose 1.8% in 4Q 2012, compared with a 0.6% increase in 3Q 2012. For 2012, prices of private residential properties increased by 2.8%, a smaller rise compared to the 5.9% growth recorded in 2011.