China Police Smash $183m Macau Gambling Ring

  • Nantong Public Security Bureau sentenced 18-member gang leader to 16 years jail, fined $17m
  • Chinese syndicate’s activities first investigated in April 2018 after two decades of operation
  • It brought people from mainland China to gamble in Macau, facilitated online “gambling accounts”
  • Group also unlawfully detained, harassed patrons' families and staff to recoup gambling debts
police car in busy Chinese city
Police in China have exposed a $183m Macau gambling ring, with the leader convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Kingpin sentenced to 16 years

Police in the city of Nantong in the Jiangsu province announced that they have exposed the largest organized gambling ring in the locality’s history, reportedly involving more than CNY1.3bn ($183.4m). The Nantong Public Security Bureau said the mastermind, only identified by his surname Shi, has been fined $17m and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

illegal gambling business for over two decades

Shi’s underground syndicate, comprising 18 individuals, ran an illegal gambling business for over two decades and was under investigation since 2018.

Crossing the line

The gang’s activities, like many other criminal organizations in China, focused on online activity as well as ways to get people to gamble abroad. Since 2007, it brought patrons from mainland China to play at brick-and-mortar casinos in Macau.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is classed a Special Administrative Region along with Hong Kong. While Macau enjoys a great degree of autonomy and hosts the world’s most lucrative casino market, Chinese law forbids promoting casino gambling to citizens from mainland China.

Group facilitating gambling accounts

Police said Shi and his accomplices were facilitating ways for business people to play online within mainland China via “gambling accounts”. Members of Shi’s network also held a number of accounts at Macau casinos, the bureau added.

The ring had also allegedly been earning commission from Macau bettors from rolling chip volume and profit-sharing. This was done through a largely undetectable multiplier system, which is unlawful in Macau as it circumvents the port city’s gaming tax.

Violence, harassment, unlawful detention

The bureau compiled evidence on Shi’s syndicate in Jiangsu, Guangdong, Hebei, Shandong, and Macau during an intense seven-month investigation which concluded in 2018. The group was prosecuted in February 2019, with the case brought before the Nantong Intermediate People’s Court earlier this year.

multiple counts of gambling crime, running illicit casino businesses, and unlawful detention

Shi and his accomplices were found guilty of using violence, which included unlawfully detaining and harassing their patrons’ family members and employees, to recoup gambling debts. Shi’s 16-year jail term reflects multiple counts of gambling crime, running illicit casino businesses, and unlawful detention.

Regional crackdown

This latest bust follows a number of recent wins for law enforcement in the region. In March 2020, the Chinese embassy in Manila announced it would be working closely with the Philippines to clamp down on illegal online gambling.

While Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte refused to agree to the Chinese President’s request to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), the Sino-Philippine relationship has already made an impact, with a joint police operation resulting in 265 arrests in Manila in May 2020.