China Mulls Hefty Prison Term for Facilitating Overseas Gambling

  • Proposed changes to criminal law aim to crack down on illegal internal, external gambling activity
  • Harsher penalties put forward for more serious cases of luring Chinese citizens to foreign casinos
  • Amendments now open for public feedback until November 19
  • Authorities have identified nearly $150bn in cross-border gambling outflow in 2020
handcuffs against a China flag backdrop
A proposed amendment to criminal law in China looks to introduce a prison sentence of up to ten years for those attracting citizens to gamble with foreign casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Amendment proposed

A proposed amendment to criminal law in China would see guilty parties face as much as ten years in prison for their involvement in luring citizens to gamble with a foreign casino.

The latest draft amendment published on Wednesday would add the new crime to Article 303. The aim of such legislation is to clamp down on illegal gambling activities inside and outside of the country. 

The draft states: “Whoever operates or manages casinos, or is designated by casinos outside the country, and organizes or solicits Chinese residents to participate in overseas gambling, where the amount involved is large with a serious nature, shall be punished according to provisions.”

Different types of offenses

For minor offenses, the penalty would be up to five years’ imprisonment, control or criminal detention, as well as a fine. For cases that are more serious because of the sums of money involved or cases with “grave consequences”, guilty parties would face five to ten years in prison and a fine.

penalty for opening an illegal casino on the mainland also increased

Another proposed amendment would see the penalty for opening an illegal casino on the mainland also increased from a maximum jail sentence of three years to five. The sentence would remain at up to three years for individuals found making a living from gambling or engaging in the activity.

The next step

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) reviewed last week the amendments that were put forward. The proposed changes are now open for public feedback until November 19. If there are no hitches along the way, they will pass into law during the NPC’s annual plenary sessions in March 2021.

almost $150bn leaving the country for “cross-border” gambling activities

Chinese authorities blame foreign casinos for large levels of capital outflow, as well as for causing significant damage to the nation’s economic security and image. On October 22, the Ministry of Public Security announced that authorities identified almost $150bn leaving the country for “cross-border” gambling activities during the first nine months of 2020.

An ongoing crackdown

Apart from the state lottery, most forms of gambling are illegal on mainland China, with casinos only allowed on the island of Macau.

In 2019, China called on other nations in the region to shut down online gambling operations that were targeting people in mainland China. Cambodia complied with the request, banning all forms of online gambling from January 1, 2020. However, the Philippines resisted. Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) provide significant revenue to the government. 

Chinese authorities have arrested more than 60,000 people for their alleged involvement in cross-border gambling. There are also reports that government agencies have created a blacklist of overseas casinos that market to Chinese tourists.