Chinese authorities have arrested 63 suspects in connection with an underground online sports betting ring. According to local news reports, the gang in charge of the illegal gambling ring handled more than 3 billion yuan in connection to an overseas gambling website identified only as “Redfoot I.”
The investigation reportedly began in response to complaints received in April from the public accusing other people of participating in online gambling. The Ningbo City Police opened an investigation and discovered a massive underground online sports betting operation.
During the course of their investigation, police reportedly used forensic techniques to identify crimes committed and to understand the betting ring’s basic structure. Police raided the gambling ring in July and arrested 38 people on the spot, including “14 key personnel.” A total of 63 people have been arrested as of today, and 10 more suspects are still at large.
The news site that first reported on the arrests describes how one suspect got himself and his brother in trouble. This anecdote also illustrates the basic manner in which the sports betting ring operated:
A suspect named Hu Mou knew his brother would be interested in betting during the World Cup and put him in contact with a third party via WeChat. The other suspect then gave Hu Mou’s brother an account name and password on an offshore betting site allowing him to bet on upcoming World Cup matches.
Hu Mou’s brother allegedly wagered a total of 30,437 yuan between 17 June and 2 July of this year. Payments were also reportedly made via WeChat transfer.
As CalvinAyre.com explained today, it appears the gambling ring operated on a standard agent basis. That is, agents on the ground signed up gamblers, collected sports betting payments and issued winnings. Customers in turn were directed to visit an offshore gambling website to log in and place their bets.
China Continues Gambling Crackdown
Chinese betting sites are illegal under local law and as today’s news story shows, authorities are serious about putting an end to the activity. Players, operators and everyone in between face legal consequences when gambling in China.
Interestingly, a handful of large, international gambling sites still accept customers from China and have done so for years. These sites never step foot on Chinese soil, however, and can operate from a safe distance. The Great Chinese Firewall does attempt to block access to international operators, but to mixed results.
The biggest risk seems to come from dealing with locally-operated betting sites that employ people actually located in China to sign up new customers, collect payments and pay winners. Local betting sites may offer face-to-face service and extend credit to gamblers, but they are liable to be targeted by authorities.
In any case, China is still intent on stopping online betting no matter who’s involved. Just over two weeks ago, Chinese authorities successfully pressured Apple into removing 25,000 apps from the App Store for a variety of offenses, including gambling.
China has also sought to eliminate VPN apps that allow users to disguise their locations in order to access forbidden content such as gambling.
WeChat has been a particularly troublesome app when it comes online gambling in China. With WeChat boasting more than 768 million users, Chinese authorities have not moved to ban the app outright. However, WeChat did reportedly close more than 8,000 gambling-related WeChat groups in the second quarter of 2018 alone. That’s in addition to the 50,000 accounts WeChat deleted for being associated with 2018 World Cup betting.
Widespread sports betting in China goes to show that even with a robust firewall system in place and a strong anti-gambling stance, prohibitions produce mixed results at best. While there are occasionally reports that China may be considering legalization, the odds of any major changes in Chinese gambling law appear quite low for the foreseeable future.