A Malaysian male, together with five other men hatched a plan whereby they conspired to use a formula that would calculate the outcomes of cards dealt in baccarat. When they put their plan into action, it resulted in a staggering win of US$315,000 from only eight days of playing at the Marina Bay Sands casino. Tan Kian, the 35-year-old Malaysian defendant now faces 11 counts as was read to him by the court a week ago under the Casino Control Act.
Out of all the charges he was accused of, Kian has pleaded guilty to 4; the others will be shelved until the sentencing stage when they will come in handy for the final consideration. Notably, the gambling fraud case masterminded by Kian shall be prosecuted according to Section 171(1) of the Casino Control Act. Under this piece of legislation, it is explicitly prohibited for any devices that can count cards or a record in whatever form during a casino game.
Gambling law is applicable whether the malpractice is done for the benefit of an individual or to aid others not affiliated with them. Apart from the main member of the group, other criminals in the same group were 45-year-old Malaysian Chai Hee Keong, Taiwanese, 27 years old Hung Jung-Hao, 26 years old Chou Yu-Lun, 22 years old Wang Yu, and 24 years old Hung Yu-Wen.
Intricate conspiracy at the baccarat
After probing for the details of the conspiracy, it was discovered that the first meeting with the defendant took place at a casino in the Philippines with Hung Yu-Wen in August 2022. The next meeting on the same subject took place two months later in October between Wang Yu and Hung Yu-Wen in Singapore. The outcome of the meeting was an agreement that baccarat gameplay would be observed at Marina Bay Sands.
In November, another meeting was held in the Philippines and the agenda was to brainstorm on strategies that would guarantee victories at baccarat. Accompanying Kian in these deliberations was Chai Hee Keong, who was suffering financial troubles at the time. Hung had a personal contact known as “Kevin” who was introduced to the group as an expert with a formula that would enhance success odds with baccarat.
According to the statement of the defendants, the formula was operated by first memorizing codes of English letters each of which stood for distinct card values and suits. When these codes were fed into an Excel sheet, the formula was applied to run calculations to generate results. Having decided to be part of the conspiracy, Chai Hee Keong and the defendant were granted approval by Hung on condition that guaranteed them a 20% share of earnings as a result of the scheme.
The roles that actualized the scheme
To successfully execute the winning scheme, each of the participants had to take up a specific role. As of December 2022, the roles were “support,” “sorcerer,” “tank,” and “marksman.”
The role of the “marksman” was to input the information they received into a computer system situated in their hotel room as well as provide updates to the “sorcerer” on “best betting strategies”. The “sorcerer” would best execute his duties while wearing a Bluetooth headset since he was in charge of reporting in real-time anything he observed. The information he relayed was useful for the “tank” and “support” roles. Even though they were in the same team, the “sorcerer” and “support” would place small bets but the “tank” was placing the large bets.
Each of the group members had an opportunity to take up different roles but the favorite for Tan Kian Yi was when he served as the “marksman” or “tank.” The group needed funds to carry out their plan and it is reported that S$ 600,000 in funds was provided by a pair of unidentified individuals. Another S$100,000 was withdrawn from Kian’s account and exchanged for chips. In case a win was realized as a result of this group effort, each of the members was entitled to a share that was equivalent to their degree of contribution. Notably, every participant had been allocated chips valued at S$100,000.
In the period from December 16 to 23, 2022, having taken into consideration a total loss of about S$231,332, the group was able to accumulate SGD 433,730 in profits from baccarat. The system irregularities were eventually detected by the casino staff and that is what resulted in the arrest of Hung Jung-Hao on Christmas Eve when he went to the casino alone. In addition to the wins that had been traced back to him, the arresting officers recovered chips valued at approximately S$797,730 in his hotel room.
Upon realizing that Hung Jung-Hao was in police custody when he stopped communicating with them, the rest of the group members fled to Malaysia. The defendant fell into a police dragnet by Malaysian police on February 3, 2023, at the Malaysian airport; he was extradited to Singapore after 2 days. Based on the testimony of the prosecution, this case was executed by a group of highly smart individuals in an elaborate scheme hence the reason it took time to detect.
At the first hearing of the case which was charged as per Section 171(1) of the Casino Control Act, it was argued that a heavy sentence was important so that potential groups cropping up in the future would be deterred from getting involved in similar offenses. The prosecution particularly proposed a sentence of 42 to 48 months of prison time for the defendant. The judge proposed more time to determine the case, scheduling the verdict day to November 22.
According to the gambling regulation law under Section 171(1) of the Casino Control Act, the accused person is liable for a fine of up to S$150,000, imprisonment of up to seven years, or both. As in the current case where the offense was committed by a group, a fine of up to S$300,000 is recommended.