China is to increase its efforts to suppress any attempts to entice Chinese people to visit overseas casinos to gamble. So said Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun, as reported by the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong, which cited state media as the source.
“We must seriously investigate and severely punish those companies and individuals involved in enticing and organising Chinese tourists to gamble in overseas casinos,” Mr Guo was quoted as having told Xinhua News Agency.
“We must severely punish those casino-related illegal labour agents and crack down on activities for investing in overseas casinos,” he reportedly added.
The Post further stated the Xinhua report mentioned the minister had organised a special meeting of senior Chinese police officials with the aim of tackling cross-border online gambling and halting such activity, in advance of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is due to take place this autumn in Beijing. Political commentators expect that the retirement will be announced during the event of a number of current members of the Politburo Standing Committee – the core leadership of China’s government.
Macau is the only place in the People’s Republic of China where casino gambling is legal. But some investment analysts have previously noted that China’s domestic anti-corruption drive of the past few years – that had a depressive effect on VIP play in Macau – may have also had the effect of displacing some high-stakes gambling to other jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific region.
As long ago as August 2015, China News Service, an official news agency, reported that the mainland’s Ministry of Public Security had started an operation called “Chain Break” – said to be aimed at disrupting foreign casinos’ access to money flows from China and those casinos’ links to individuals that scout for gamblers from China.
In October 2016, a number of executives and workers from Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd were detained in mainland China on suspicion of what the authorities termed “gambling-related crimes”. Crown Resorts – a firm that has been regarded by investment analysts as traditionally strong in attracting to its Australian properties high roller gamblers from the Asia Pacific region – announced in February that turnover from its VIP gambling operations in Australia had plunged 45.3 percent year-on-year in the six months ending December 31.
In other regional developments, China’s possible appeal to its citizens’ patriotism as potentially an economic lever in relations with other countries has drawn the attention of neighbouring nations with exposure to outbound Chinese tourism.
Brokerage Aegis Capital Corp said in an early March note that a political row between China and South Korea regarding the placement of a U.S. missile system in the latter country could benefit Macau by diverting Chinese tourists away from South Korea and toward the special administrative region. At around the same time it was reported that a party of Chinese tourists aboard a cruise ship docking at Jeju island – a South Korean holiday destination with foreigner-only casinos drawing Chinese visitors – had refused to disembark. Reports suggested their action might have been in protest at the missile policy.
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Chairman and chief executive of Wynn Macau