China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate announced on Sunday it prosecuted in the first half this year a total of 46,575 people for gambling-related crimes; 86.3 percent for “establishment of casinos”.
The statement did not specify whether they were illicit gambling venues or online operations. Macau is the only place in the People’s Republic of China where casino gambling is legal, and Macau permits only very limited forms of online, non-casino sports betting.
The number of people prosecuted in China for gambling-related crimes for the first half of 2021 marked a 27.7 percent increase when compared with the same period of 2019, said the top prosecutory agency. The body said it skipped comparison with the first half 2020, when a Covid-19 alert was at its height in that nation.
On the Chinese mainland, the promotion of casino gambling in online or bricks and mortar form is also illegal, as is the direct marketing within the mainland, of gambling operations based outside the mainland’s borders.
The prosecutory agency stated that in full-year 2020, a total of 80,537 people was prosecuted for gambling-related crimes nationwide; in 2019, the number had been 86,843.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in its Sunday statement that China’s amended criminal code – which came into effect from March 1 – had helped the country’s law-enforcement bodies to combat “Internet-based” gambling activities. As well as making criminals of anyone who “organises” mainland Chinese for the purpose of overseas gambling; the updated code also increases penalties for an existing offence of setting up a casino on mainland territory.
Since March 1, two people had been prosecuted for “organising participation in gambling outside the country (border)”, according to the Sunday announcement. No further details were given.
In a written commentary accompanying the prosecution statistics, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate remarked: “Gambling-related crimes have become increasingly Internet-based and developed in virtual formats. Internet-based gambling has been gradually replacing traditional, bricks-and-mortar casinos in becoming a main format of crimes.”
It added: “In many cases, in order to evade investigations by the judicial units, criminals have set the servers of the betting websites outside the country, which made the crimes largely hidden in nature. Various forms of luring gambling have also emerged…these new forms of cross-border gambling crimes have become a prominent issue that requires continuous tackling.”
China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate highlighted that the crimes of Internet-based gambling and cross-border gambling were usually linked with other forms of crime, such as money scams, blackmail, unlawful detention, and illegal border-crossing activities.
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Alvin Chau Cheok Wa
Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group