China Police Make 75,000+ Arrests, Thousands of Online Platform Busts in 2020 Illegal Gambling Crackdown

  • The country's law enforcement authorities cracked over 3,500 cross-border gambling cases
  • Officers also seized “a large number” of funds from illegal payment platforms and banks
  • The crackdown focused on various gambling groups and included a “blacklist” of destinations
  • A new law will see organizers of overseas gambling risk a ten-year jail term starting March
China police force sign
Chinese police arrested more than 75,000 as part of a nationwide illegal gambling crackdown in 2020, according to government data. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A busy year for law enforcement

As part of a crackdown on illegal gambling operations in China, police made more than 75,000 arrests last year, busting over 2,260 online platforms.

authorities cracked more than 3,500 cross-border gambling cases

According to a Ministry of Public Security of China statement, the aim was to “resolutely [curb] the chaos of cross-border gambling crimes.” As a result, law enforcement authorities cracked more than 3,500 cross-border gambling cases. In addition to the arrests, police destroyed more than 1,960 illegal payment platforms and underground banks, seizing “a large number” of funds in the process.

Chinese police collaborated with authorities in the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. They transported more than 600 Chinese cross-border gambling suspects to mainland China from overseas. The Ministry said it will “always maintain a high pressure on cross-border gambling crimes” moving forward.

Further details of the crackdown

Authorities in China began their major crackdown of illegal gambling operations last year. As part of this, local public security agencies conducted studies on the different types of cross-border gambling violations, then worked with police agencies to enforce disciplinary measures. The Public Security Ministry also urged Chinese citizens to report any information about prohibited activities.

According to the ministry, the crackdown focused on various overseas gambling groups, including “major shareholders, practitioners, capital service platforms, technical support platforms, gambling personnel and fugitives.” In tackling these groups, the police force eliminated networks of many large-scale overseas gambling operations.

The operation involved the creation of a “blacklist” system for cross-border gambling tourist destinations. Authorities said these regions were causing problems for China’s outbound tourism market by targeting Chinese customers.

JP Morgan analysts have suggested the blacklist likely includes the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The Southeast Asian countries are all emerging gaming destinations.

New, harsher penalties inbound

In December 2020, the Chinese government passed an amendment to the nation’s criminal law, meaning harsher penalties for the organization of cross-border gambling in the future.

offenders face as much as ten years’ imprisonment

The legislation, proposed in October last year, will come into force on March 1, 2021. It will see offenders face as much as ten years’ imprisonment for luring Chinese residents to gamble in foreign casinos. Minor offenses carry a minimum term of five years, in addition to a fine. The amendments will pass into law during China’s National People’s Congress’ annual plenary sessions this year.

The new penalties target an area the ministry blames for a large amount of capital outflow from China. The body announced in October that $150bn left the country through cross-border gambling in the first nine months of 2020. 

Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley analysts said the threat of the new penalties has pushed Macau’s junket operators towards diversification. Added to Macau’s shrinking VIP sector, stricter disciplinary action will make business even more difficult for the operators, which organize gambling trips for high rollers in the region. Two of Macau’s leading junket operators, Suncity and Tak Chun, have both purchased stakes in casinos ahead of the law’s implementation.