China has a new gambling threat to worry about. As part of what Chinese media outlet HK01 says is a first, smugglers are now trying to send lottery tickets for Hong Kong’s Mark Six draw to Macau and Mainland China.
On September 21, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department was conducting a routine patrol of a river when they came across a vessel they wanted to inspect. It didn’t take long for the authorities to realize that something wasn’t right, so they took a closer look.
On board, they found about 16K tickets for a lottery draw that was going to take place the following day. As they interrogated the two men running the boat, the officials learned that the tickets were likely on their way out of Hong Kong and into forbidden territory.
Underground Lottery Draws a Real Thing
A Mark Six ticket costs at least HKD10 (US$1.27), according to the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), which administers the lottery. At face value, the tickets the customs officials seized would be worth just over $20K.
In Macau and China, people are apparently willing to pay more. The smugglers were reportedly going to make anywhere from $0.13 to $1.66 in addition to the face value. As a result, the tally could have been as much as $42,042.
How the smuggling operation was going to work is still under investigation. It appears that all of the tickets had been printed on a computer or computers, and networks in Macau and China were going to distribute them.
The top prize for the Mark Six draw had grown recently. The minimum first prize starts at HKD8 million (US$1.02 million), but the draw on September 22 was for HKD24 million (US$3.05 million).
That was reportedly the motive behind the smuggling operation. Because of the higher top prize, there was apparently a market in Macau and China for the draw. It’s also possible that tickets made their way out of Hong Kong before without being discovered.
It isn’t clear if buyers already agreed to make their purchases, or if any money had exchanged hands. The Customs and Excise Department handed all of the tickets over to the HKJC for review, and it determined that some were winners.
The 600 winning tickets that were found have a combined value of around HKD70,000 (US$8,918). Hong Kong authorities may decide to void all of them. The Customs and Excise Department currently has them in its possession while authorities, including the Department of Justice, figure out how to proceed.
China’s Quest for Money Leads to Increased Smuggling
Several global media outlets have recently reported that China’s economic situation isn’t great. The World Bank’s outlook on the country predicts it is experiencing its third-slowest growth year this year since the 1970s.
As a way to try to counter the slowdown and boost the country’s stability, China has introduced new taxes. Some electronic goods, for example, carry a tax of anywhere from 63% to 108%.
As a result, smuggling is becoming big business. HK01 added that, in the same shipment that contained the lottery tickets, officials also found smartphones, tablets, and other devices. These products had a total value of around $1.27 million, not including China’s taxes.
This was the third time since June that officials have intercepted smugglers using inland rivers to carry out their activities. Since then, authorities have confiscated around 6,000 smartphones and tablets.
The smugglers are still in police custody and will stand trial for their crimes. Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance states that the importation or exportation of undeclared goods can result in a fine of as much as $254,800, and up to seven years in prison.
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