Chinese Gambling Business That Earned $28B Lands Nine in Jail

China continues to uphold its staunch anti-gambling stance, going after anyone who breaks the law. This time, it’s jailing nine people who led a massive online gambling ring that earned over $28 billion.

Chinese courtroom
Chinese courtroom
A trial underway in China’s Hongkou District Court. A judge just sentenced nine people to jail for their participation in illegal gambling activity. (Image: NPR)

The group began its operations in 2014, according to GGRAsia, citing a report from a Chinese media outlet. During that time, they were also running a land-based casino in Yunnan, Myanmar, on the other side of the Chinese border.

After authorities traced the operation to its origins, they moved in and shut it down. The nine organizers, who were not identified, have now had their day in court and received different sentences based on their roles.

End of An Era

The group reportedly earned around CNY197.8 billion (US$28.6 billion) throughout the seven-year operation. It took wagers and settled bets for different gambling activities, while constantly looking for new customers to keep the wheels turning.

One of the channels the organizers used was live gambling. Players could watch live streams of different casino games as the action took place at the Myanmar casino, located in the Mong La province. They could then wager on the outcomes of the games, which included baccarat.

Because of the involvement of the casino in Myanmar, Chinese prosecutors determined the organizers were guilty of cross-border gambling. This was in addition to the basic crime of running a casino.

Prosecutors also based their claim on the fact that the nine people leading the operation were in various parts of the country. Specifically, GGRAsia reported that they were from the provinces of Hebei, Shaanxi, and Henan, as well as Hunan.

The group also provided mechanisms for proxy betting to expand their network. At the height of its activity, the group had more than 253K users.

Despite the gross revenue the outfit earned and the length of time it operated, the sentences are not that severe. They range from as little as 18 months to as long as five years.

Mong La Has History of Defiance

Mong La has repeatedly been associated with illegal activity. Over the past decade, it has been called Myanmar’s Sin City, a “sleaze capital,” and more.

It’s also a popular spot for gambling, something of which China disapproves. Because of the allegation that illicit business in the province is run by Chinese for Chinese, China issued an ultimatum to those in the province last year. All Chinese had to return to the country, or face the consequences.

Among the possible repercussions were the exclusion from welfare and public services. Those making a good living in Mong La probably wouldn’t have cared. However, China extended the threat to cover the individuals’ families, as well.

Despite the warnings, things haven’t improved. Four months ago, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) asserted that the Mekong subregion, of which Myanmar is a part, is rife with crime and illegal gambling.

Today, criminal gangs, some led by Chinese nationals, are still using unregulated casinos in Mong La and other provinces to launder money and sell drugs. In some cases, they operate with the protection and support of local military groups.

Myanmar suffered a military coup in February of last year. Since then, there hasn’t been any change. On the contrary, some areas are now more lawless than ever, according to the UNODC. Moreover, with China putting more pressure on the mainland and Macau, some fear that the lawless nature is only going to increase.

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