A Chinese man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for his involvement in a multimillion-dollar gambling ring.
Nantong city police in the Jiangsu province near Shanghai say a man they only identified by his surname “Shi” has been charged and convicted with running an underground gambling network that involved more than CNY1.3 billion ($180 million).
The Nantong Public Security Bureau announced the conviction yesterday, GGRAsia reported. Law enforcement officials said Shi ran for over two decades an illegal online gambling business, and also organized trips to Macau for his customers to gamble.
Shi was found guilty on several counts, including gambling crimes, running an illicit casino business, and unlawful detention. He was fined more than $17.3 million.
Other than China’s state-run lottery, all forms of gambling are illegal in the mainland.
Macau, one of two Special Administrative Regions in the People’s Republic, the other being Hong Kong, has a high degree of autonomy and is the world’s richest casino market. However, China still prohibits any marketing of gambling activities on the mainland. Those who violate China’s ban on gambling advertising face severe penalties.
Shi was found guilty of marketing gambling ventures to Macau, as police say he arranged countless trips to Macau since 2007. He also lent his customers money through online gambling accounts, and when people didn’t pay up, his ring used violent detention methods to recoup debts.
Nantong police say it was the “biggest” organized crime ever infiltrated in the city.
Another high-profile case regarding the illegal promotion of gambling in China came back in 2016 when 19 employees of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts were arrested and detained. The Crown workers were charged with “gambling crimes” on allegations that they were there to recruit high rollers to the company’s casinos in Australia. Jason O’Connor, Crown Resorts’ head of VIP operations, spent 10 months in a Chinese prison before his release.
It’s been a busy couple of years for China in cracking down on illegal gambling enterprises.
Last August, police in the Zhejiang Province arrested 36 people involved in a massive online gambling ring. The bust involved $75.8 million, and some 810,000 player accounts. Law enforcement say the online social messaging platform WeChat was used to facilitate the illicit operation.
In March, an alleged illegal gaming racket in Hong Kong was infiltrated. Eight gambling dens were seized, along with $1.8 million.
China continues to try and stop offshore online gaming operators – many of which are based in the Philippines – from serving Chinese citizens with internet gambling.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says though China President Xi Jinping asked him to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), the internet casinos provide too great an economic benefit for him to order their closures. As a result, China announced in February that it was canceling thousands of passports on citizens believed to be working in POGO centers.
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