TEN high rollers whose cheques bounced when The Star casino presented them for payment have been ordered to pay $8.85 million, though there are doubts the casino will be able to recoup its losses from the overseas gamblers.
The biggest bounced cheque was $4.98 million drawn on a Hong Kong account of Thai businessman Nattachai Srirungsukpinij. He has been ordered by the New South Wales Supreme Court to pay $5.33 million, with interest accruing at $1126 a day.
The Star sued the 10 individuals in February but it was only in late May that it revealed it would write off $22.9 million in bad debts incurred by international VIP customers introduced to it by SilkStar, a gambling junket operator. SilkStar went into liquidation in March, owing The Star $7 million.
The court record shows the casino extended cheque cashing facilities to the high rollers, who were mainly from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, in early 2011. The cheques started to bounce in April, and on one day - June 28 - two cheques totalling $896,000 presented by the casino were rejected.
With none of the gamblers contesting the claims against them, default judgments totalling $8.85 million have been made by the court.
Three of the judgments were for amounts below $100,000. Four more of the bounced cheques involved amounts of more than half a million dollars. With interest, Thai businesswoman Pimchaya Wattanakulyothin has been ordered to pay $799,484, Somboon Srisombattanakit $541,980, Krairurg Kodcha $522,397 and Vissanu Wiangnak $674,000.
News of the bad debts gave ammunition to Crown chairman James Packer in his recent bid for Crown to get a seat on the board of The Star's owner, Echo Entertainment.
A spokesman for The Star yesterday refused to answer questions as to whether it had revised its policy of providing cheque cashing facilities to high rollers, or on its chances of recovering the debts.
Given the value casino operators put on ensuring the privacy of their high rollers, the court action is a high-profile foray into debt collection.