China Seizes $32.4bn From 257 Illegal Gambling Operations

  • Public Security Ministry arrested 11,500 for crimes including illegal gambling, money laundering
  • Anti-gambling campaign launched February 28 after illegal activity became “more rampant”
  • Cases included illicit use of payment platforms, live broadcasts of gambling on illegal casino sites
  • Informants on illegal gambling operations in Jilin province eligible for rewards of up to $7,000
man's hands in handcuffs
China has confiscated more than $32bn from hundreds of illegal gambling operations since February. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Billions made since February 28

China has announced that its latest campaign against illegal cross-border gambling has led to the confiscation of 229bn yuan ($32.4bn) to date.

more than 11,500 suspects involved in 257 criminal cases

According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 11,500 suspects involved in 257 criminal cases are now under arrest since the campaign launched February 28. The arrests concern gambling offences and other violations relating to money laundering, kidnapping, abduction, telecommunication fraud, and human trafficking.

Campaign launched in wake of COVID-19

China went into lockdown on January 23 following the outbreak of coronavirus and did not lift restrictions until 76 days later. This meant that both nationals and visitors were unable to access the district of Macau, where gambling is legal.

The new campaign launched after illegal activity had “grown ever more rampant”, according to the ministry. The public security authority decided to target not just those gambling illegally, but also the people providing guidance and technical support that allowed such activity to go ahead.

368 gambling platforms and 187 underground banks, as well as the discovery of 148 criminal gangs

In total, the crackdown operation saw the removal of 368 gambling platforms and 187 underground banks, as well as the discovery of 148 criminal gangs in operation. Sanctions for those under arrest include restrictions when crossing the border. Said detainees should expect to see their own personal credit rating take a hit.

Payment platforms involved

In its announcement, the ministry detailed “ten typical cases of combating cross-border gambling crimes.” Among them, one investigation saw the involvement of multiple payment platforms such as Duoduo and Qianbao on illegal gambling sites. The discovery was made after QR codes were used to identify criminal gangs.

106 people, ranging from a platform CEO to shareholders and customer service agents, were arrested after the Zaozhuang police launched a new operation on May 18. The crackdown also facilitated the collection of more than 1bn yuan ($14m) and the detainment of nine vehicles as well as bank cards and digital devices.

Shutting down illegal online casinos

A second case among those reported was investigated by the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. Police shut down an illegal casino that was using an online gaming program that supported gambling to broadcast the action live over several platforms, including Yaya and Douyu.

The task force proceeded to arrest 19 criminal suspects in April and seized 2.34m yuan ($333,000) in cash. Another seven individuals were detained in May for providing the technology for the gambling networks.  

China has long been an advocate of blacklisting individuals and companies that allow illegal gambling. All of those involved in the hundreds of cases that came to light have now been added to the blacklist.

Gambling snitches in for a reward

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Public Security released details of how the illegal gambling culprits were discovered. Efforts included asking residents of China to report anyone who they thought was gambling illegally.

informants eligible for rewards of up to 50,000 yuan ($7,000)

Back in April, it had announced plans to roll out the platform titled Notice on Strictly Combating Cross-Border Gambling and Telecommunications Network Fraud During the New Crown Pneumonia Epidemic. This was done to encourage residents to use technology to pinpoint who might have been involved in underground gambling activity.

The ministry launched the initiative on June 5, following which the Public Security Department in China’s Jilin province offered an incentive to make informants eligible for rewards of up to 50,000 yuan ($7,000).