An upper court in Guangdong, mainland China, has issued a press release citing what it termed “seven classic cases” about “combatting cross-border gambling crimes”, that had been heard in the province’s courts.
One of them was a verdict – on an unspecified date – of the Intermediate People’s Court in Zhuhai, the Guangdong city next door to Macau, on 12 defendants found guilty of the crime of “establishment of casino” due to “their role of soliciting and organising gamblers from mainland China to play at Macau’s Suncity gaming rooms” during a period running from April 2018 to April 2020.
That was understood to be a reference to the former Suncity-branded gambling junket business in the Macau casino market.
In January this year, Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, founder of the group, received an 18-year prison sentence after being indicted for illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering. In October, Mr Chau was acquitted of fraud, though the length of his sentence was upheld.
Some of the other criminal matters aired in the press release issued by the Higher People’s Court in Guangdong, related to alleged events of online gambling as long ago as 2014. The release did not clarify the reason for the timing of the press release. But the announcement mentioned “the implications the courts draw” from the previous verdicts.
The statement said a “criminal organisation” formed by the 12 defendants in the intermediate court case mentioned, had provided gaming chips to 158 mainland Chinese gamblers that were worth an aggregate of “over HKD130 million” (US$16.6 million) , and earned commissions of “HKD50 million” from these gamblers.
The verdict also mentioned that these defendants were involved in a side deal: they had themselves gambled on the gamblers’ wins-losses results against junkets, and hence earned an “illicit profit” of “over HKD300,000”.
Cross-border and online gambling
The Zhuhai court ruled that the defendants were guilty of committing the crime of “establishment of casino”, because they were aiming for profits through “establishing accounts in casinos outside the country”, via “rolling”.
That was understood to be a reference to non-cashable or “rolling” chips commonly issued to high-stakes gamblers. The practice is found in a number of legally-licensed casino properties across a number of jurisdictions, including traditionally in Macau.
The accused were said to have provided certain mainland residents with a “capital guarantee” for their gambling activities outside China.
Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
The “principal members” of the criminal group – as the court called it – were a wife and husband, and they got respectively, a jail term of six-and-half years, plus CNY3-million (US$413,117) fine; and five-and-a-half years, plus CNY2-million fine.
Other defendants were sentenced for periods ranging from three years and five months, to eight months, plus unspecified fines.
Amendment to China’s criminal code, that took effect in March 2021, said a prison term of up to 10 years could apply to cases involving any person who “organises” mainland Chinese citizens to gamble – in the literal translation from the Chinese – “outside the country (borders)”.
The press release said China’s Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate; and the Ministry of Public Security had set up what was referred to as an interpretation and assessment standard regarding what constituted the crime of “establishment of casino”.
The release added that cross-border gambling activities had in recent years “seriously threatened the economic and social stability” of the state. The update said the verdicts of the country’s courts regarding this type of crime could act as a safeguard of the people’s interests.
Verdict summaries were given for the other six cases mentioned in the press statement issued behalf of the Higher People’s Court in Guangdong. They related respectively to “online gambling” and the solicitation of mainland China gamblers to take part in such activity.
One involved several individuals said to have set up a “studio” in Manila, the Philippine capital, to run a gambling website that appropriated the name “Macau Casino Lisboa”. It was said to have had an agent network of 2,736 individuals on the Chinese mainland from May 2014 through to November 2020, and recruited 162,689 gamblers. It was said to have accepted wagers totalling more than CNY160 million.
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