Police Bust Two Illegal Gambling Rings in Asia

Asia featured on globe

30-second summary

  • Raids in Cambodia and Taiwan
  • Foreign nationals involved
  • Chinese gamblers regularly travel to Cambodia
  • The ring in Taipei involved pensioners
  • Gambling in both countries is illegal

Chinese arrested in Siem Reap

Police in Cambodia and Taiwan have made arrests in connection with illegal gambling dens.

Four Chinese nationals were arrested in Cambodia and charged with running an illegal gambling den in the city of Siem Reap, 300 km north of the capital, Phnom Penh. The four have been placed in prison custody, pending their trial.

The head of the provincial general crimes department, Major General Phoeung Chendarithy, said the accused were arrested on Thursday, January 24, following a two-week surveillance operation. If convicted, they each face up to five years in jail.

Captain Bun Lim, of the Siem Reap city police, said the ringleader was Jiang Jianchun, who owned the City Impression Entertainment World online gambling den. The three other arrested men were employed by Jiang in various roles.

Surveillance revealed that most of the gamblers were also foreign nationals who were gambling from 8pm to 3am every night. Those on the premises, in the Svay Dangkum neighborhood, were reported to have fled the scene during the raid.

Lim said of the arrested men: “They were operating an illegal gambling den without permission. They did not seem afraid of our country’s laws.”

During the raid, police officers confiscated four mobile phones, 32 online gambling consoles, and other items.

Cambodian laws are strict

Gambling is illegal in Cambodia for citizens of the country. However, some casinos that are open only to foreigners operate officially in border areas. Because gambling is illegal in all of Cambodia’s neighboring countries, the casinos are popular destinations for Chinese, Laotian, and Vietnamese gamblers.

These foreign gamblers must provide their passports to be permitted entry. Cambodians with dual citizenship are known to exploit this loophole, using their foreign passport to gain access and gamble legally.

Citizens without foreign ID sometimes bribe the police to be allowed into these casinos. Despite this, they face arrest on leaving and may be forced to hand over most of their winnings to escape being charged.

Taipei pensioners’ casino raided

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, police officers broke up an illegal casino in New Taipei City. The raid took place on Saturday, January 26.

Eight people were arrested, of whom seven were over the age of 70. The ringleader of the illegal casino was named as Chiou, who ran the operation with his 70-year-old unnamed wife. All have been charged with gambling offenses.

During the raid, police seized NT$1,180 (US$38.30; £29.11) and decks of cards as evidence.

The police revealed that the eight gamblers had been playing a rummy-type game called Four Color Cards. Card games and mah-jong are popular in the run-up to the Chinese New Year, which begins on February 5.

These games are permitted only under limited circumstances, such as playing for matchsticks rather than money, on certain days such as the New Year, under the so-called “temporary amusement” clause.

They gamblers claimed that they had been playing only for small stakes and so had not broken Taiwan’s strict gambling laws. However, the police said the casino was illegal because Chiou had provided the venue and was taking a cut from their stakes.

Taiwan gambling banned

Gambling in Taiwan is illegal, with only state-run lotteries permitted. It is also illegal to provide venues where gamblers can gather. Casino games, poker in any form, and sports betting are all banned.

Illegal online gaming sites are thriving, and several sports betting syndicates have been busted, with players charged with match-fixing.

In recent years, the Taiwanese government has toyed with legalizing casinos. It passed a law in 2009 to permit the construction of casinos on some of the country’s smaller islands, but no developments have yet begun. Politicians have said a national referendum would need to be called before any building work could start.

As the Chinese New Year approaches, Taiwan’s police have warned they will step up efforts to crack down on illegal gambling.