Mr Chau, 48, was found guilty of fraud, leading a criminal group and organizing illegal gambling by judge Lou Ieng Ha.

It also ordered more than US$1.1 billion in damages: $834 million for the Macau government, plus $275 million for five of the city's six casino operators, namely MGM China, Wynn Macau, Sands China, Galaxy. Entertainment and SJM Holding.

Nicknamed the "king of the junket", Mr. Chau was however acquitted of money laundering charges.

A "junket" is an intermediary who facilitates the arrival in the casinos of Macao of the players while being used to them at the same time as tour operator and lender.

Mr. Chau is the founder of the largest of these, Suncity Group, a Macau leisure travel operator that has successfully attracted punters from mainland China.

This former Portuguese colony is the only place in the country where casinos are allowed.

In twenty years, its GDP has exploded, its casinos being able to bring in more in a week than all of Las Vegas in a month.

Mr. Chau's downfall coincides with Chinese President Xi Jinping's years-long anti-corruption campaign.

Beijing fights in particular against money laundering through gambling.

The tycoon's trial began in September on the basis of illegal bets estimated at 824 billion Hong Kong dollars (about 98 billion euros).

These hidden bets spread over eight years would have allowed the former Portuguese colony to embezzle more than 1 billion Hong Kong dollars in tax revenue (about 118 million euros).

In total, prosecutors brought 289 charges against Alvin Chau, who was on trial alongside 20 other defendants for fraud, money laundering and illegal betting.

The "king of the junket" was also accused of having helped Chinese customers to bet by proxy in casinos in Southeast Asia.

In December before the court, Alvin Chau had defended himself from any illegal activity, ensuring that he did not know why Suncity was considered a criminal syndicate.

He was arrested in November 2021 by Macao authorities, two days after Beijing issued an arrest warrant for him.

© 2023 AFP