China Cracks Down on Gambling
As China enters the Year of the Dog, the government here is working towards curbing all forms of illegal gambling. This isn’t the first attempt in recent times. The country had carried out a similar crackdown on illegal gambling last year. However, this time, it will also be going after the systems that support illegal gambling.
Earlier this week, Xinhua, the state’s official media service published a video statement from Deputy Minister Huang Ming of the Ministry of Public Security. Ming makes it clear, in the video, that China is facing a new challenge in its efforts to end illegal gambling, implying that stronger enforcement of the law is likely.
According to Ming, illegal gambling is a growing menace in the more rural sections of the country. He attributed the problem to illegal gambling sites and also, human operators. The Deputy Minister is believed to have ordered the police to directly target such “enablers”. This is said to include a network of banks that exist underground. Chinese gamblers have been known to rely on such banks to fund their illegal gambling habits.
Apart from the legal crackdown, Ming has also discussed the negative impact of gambling in the video. He called it a “social harm” that posed a threat to the country’s security. He also warned that, if caught, illegal gamblers and the forces that obstruct investigations related to the crime will be dealt with in a severe manner.
China has dealt with over a million cases of illegal gambling since 2012. Around 6 million people were said to have been involved in carrying out these activities. In October 2017, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate published a report showing that the country arrested almost 710 individuals for illegal online gambling in 2017 alone; an increase of 80.7% compared to the previous year.
A desperate market
Apart from welfare lotteries and state-run sports, gambling remains an illegal activity in Mainland China. This has led to gamblers opting for alternative options, which mostly includes illegal gambling dens. The closest legal alternative involves traveling to Macau or Hong Kong; a not-so-feasible option for many.
There have been suggestions from various quarters to legalize gambling in the mainland. Proponents feel that this would address the growing problem of illegal gambling and also prevent precious revenue from moving outside.
According to a report from Macau’s Institute for Tourism Studies, the revenue loss itself could end up becoming a national threat in the long run. The report also offered suggestions such as opening small pilot projects within special zones as a way to test the waters.