Taiwan Set to Criminalize Online Gambling with Law Changes

  • Current gambling laws in Taiwan do not cover online gambling
  • Authorities want tougher penalties for those who gamble online to act as a deterrent
  • Defendants have won a number of cases on appeal recently due to wording of legislation
Taiwan flag against clear blue sky.
Taiwan looks set to revamp its gambling laws, with fines of up to $1,600 to be issued to anyone found guilty of gambling online. [Image: Shutterstock]

Part of a large crackdown

Authorities in Taiwan are seeking an update to gambling laws, a move which will potentially criminalize online gambling. If new legislation is approved, those who violate the laws could be fined up to $1,600.

A draft amendment was filed by the Ministry of Justice in Taiwan at the beginning of September. This filing seeks an amendment to Article 266 of the Taiwan Criminal Code. 

Authorities believe that online gambling causes significant family and social problems

If this change is approved, it would mean that it would be a criminal offense for any Taiwan citizen to gamble through “telecommunications equipment, electronic communications, internet or other similar means.”

The country’s current gambling laws do not cover online gambling and are out of date. The government believes that a stiffer penalty needs to be issued to online gamblers to discourage them. Authorities believe that online gambling causes significant family and social problems.

This draft amendment will now have to be considered and ratified by the state legislature before coming into effect. 

Reasons for the changes

There were a number of recent cases in which defendants facing online gambling charges were let off. Charges were dropped after the cases went through an appeal process. This led to the government taking swift action to try and firm up the country’s gambling laws. 

Current gambling rules merely state that citizens who gamble in “a public place or a place open to the public” will face a fine.

The Taiwanese Supreme Court in the recent cases said that the online gambling platforms being used were not “open” or “public” as per the current laws.

Therefore, the court said it is in the hands of the legislators to make changes to the wording of these laws if they do not want further appeals of this kind to be successful.

Operators still have issues

Operators do not have a similar loophole in which they can avoid prosecution and fines. Online gambling operators still need to concern themselves with Article 286 in the Criminal Code.

Article 286 states that any party found guilty of “furnishing a place to gamble or assembling persons to gamble” with the goal of generating a profit could face a prison sentence of up to three years.

Currently, the only form of legal gambling in Taiwan is the state-run lottery. This has a sports lottery option and a number of standard draw games.

Despite the efforts of authorities, many Taiwan residents use overseas online gambling sites to gamble in different ways. 

Ongoing crackdown

It was only a week ago that the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Taiwan successfully broke up a significant online gambling network. This network was operating from Taichung City for the past four years.

The main focus of the operation was the provision of a number of services to online gambling operators. These services include website development and design, payment processing, customer support and marketing. 

operation resulted in the arrest of 67 Taiwanese locals and 7 Chinese nationals

It was a network revolving around a number of China-focused gambling websites. Authorities estimated that the annual turnover of all these websites was in the region of $700m. 

This operation resulted in the arrest of 67 Taiwanese locals and 7 Chinese nationals. There was a local in charge of daily operations, but the funds were coming from Chinese sources, according to the investigation team. A total of 215 mobile devices and 122 computers were seized by the police as evidence.