Macau police have arrested more than 100 women on prostitution charges at the Venetian Macao, the first major sex-trade crackdown at the glitzy hotel since it opened in 2007, reports said yesterday.
The former Portuguese colony’s vice squad swooped on the sprawling hotel early yesterday in a raid that coincided with a visit by US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands controls the hotel’s operator Sands China.
A Sands China spokeswoman declined comment, but said the company would issue a statement late yesterday.
The raid came a week after the Macau government rejected Sands China’s application to build another multi-billion dollar casino resort on the city’s lucrative Cotai Strip. The firm also operates the Four Seasons and Sands Macao.
Over 70 police officers raided the hotel’s massive gaming floor, taking 110 Chinese women and 22 others thought to be controlling them into custody, reports said.
“They stayed for about two hours and then took away more than 100 people they had an interest in, most of them women,” a Sands China spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post.
She said the hotel had a policy banning sex workers, adding that Adelson’s visit was unconnected to the raid.
The Post said the women were forced to pay their pimps a daily “protection fee” of as much as HK$1,000 (US$130).
Macau is the only Chinese city where casino gambling is allowed and has overtaken Las Vegas in terms of gaming revenue since the sector was opened to foreign competition in 2002.
Prostitutes are commonly seen looking for customers in some of the city’s casino hotels and raids on the sex trade are common.
“Such prostitution activities have always been an on-going issue in Macau and have been very serious,” Macau legislator Au Kam-san (區錦新) was quoted as saying by Hong Kong newspaper the Standard. “The government is not determined enough to combat such crimes.”