Authorities in mainland China claim they charged 63,238 individuals with operating illegal casinos, both live and online, from Jan. 2 to Sept. 30. Some 25,140 people were prosecuted for the offense during the same period.
That’s according to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), China’s top prosecutor’s office, which disclosed the figures during a press conference in Beijing on Monday. The procuratorate said it was a 40 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
On Monday, the agency noted there was a growing “cross-border” element to the infractions. It warned citizens to be extra vigilant of apps that promote cash prizes and expensive gifts masquerading as illegal gambling apps.
It also urged citizens to be wary of online chess rooms, where it said online operators were increasingly luring people into illegal gambling.
An extraordinary 255,850 individuals have been prosecuted for operating illegal casinos from 2018 to September 2021, according to the SPP.
Apart from state-controlled lotteries, gambling has been illegal in China since 1949. Running an illegal gambling house can result in up to ten years in prison.
The procuratorate’s announcement came a day after the arrest in Macau of Alvin Chau, CEO of Suncity, the biggest junket operator in the gambling hub.
On Friday, prosecutors in the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, accused Chau of controlling a network of more than 80,000 high-rolling Chinese gamblers. Suncity would allegedly funnel them into Macau casinos.
The junket would lend them money while there, in violation of Beijing’s strict controls on the movement of money out of the mainland.
Prosecutors in Macau say they have built a separate case against Chau. This is based on the allegation that Suncity operates an offshore online gambling network targeting Chinese citizens, which it has denied.
Central Bank Payments Crackdown
Also Monday, the People’s Bank of China announced a crackdown on mobile payment processors, designed to stymie online operators’ efforts to move money and conceal transactions, according to a report from Nikkei Asia.
The new rules, which will take effect on March 1 next year, require payment platforms to identify those who use individual payment collection bar codes for business purposes. Instead, this type of user must now use merchant bar codes for business activities.
The barcodes can be generated by popular Chinese payment platforms like Alipay and WeChatPay, allowing users to transfer money between families and friends. They’re also used by small business owners.
However, many poor Chinese may be willing to sell their payment codes to online gambling operators and black-market payment processors to help them facilitate illegal wagering.
The new rules mean processors will need to sharpen up their risk monitoring and have a better understanding of their customers.
“A street vendor selling breakfast or vegetables is unlikely to generate transactions worth 100,000 yuan ($15,642) a day, so payment platforms have to be fully aware of the characteristics of a user account when opening it,” the Central Bank said.
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