China ramps up igaming crackdown amid Covid-19
China’s Ministry of Public Security has once again emphasised the importance of cracking down on illegal offshore gambling at its source, something it said was especially important as a result of increased activity during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
At a special meeting held last week, Deputy Minister for Public Security Wang Xiaohong explained that China would strengthen comprehensive measures to tackle illegal gambling, with an emphasis on disrupting providers’ operations.
In January this year Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi was designated leader of China’s anti-gambling efforts, and proposed a blacklist of illegal sites early in March.
Wang said this was a good start, with initial results promising. However, he added, there had been an increase in offshore gambling since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
“Overseas casinos and gaming websites have increased targeting of Chinese citizens, seriously jeopardising the legitimate rights and interests of the people, and seriously affecting China's economic security, social stability, and international image,” Wang said.
The over-arching target will be to “break the chain” of supply for operators targeting the market, the Ministry concluded. This will involve cracking down on investment in these businesses and the operators of casinos and gambling sites, in order to prevent crimes such as kidnapping, extortion, money laundering and illegal detention that it claims arise from illegal gambling.
This will see the Ministry look to freeze and seize funds and accounts held by overseas casinos and igaming accounts, and punish payment processors that facilitate transactions for operators.
Efforts to screen and remove domestic and foreign websites offering gambling will also be stepped up, supported by online reporting platforms to allow citizens to flag illegal activity.
Blacklisting of employees, countries and sites involved in illegal gambling will also be introduced, alongside standardised laws to stamp out cross-border activity, aided by cooperation with law enforcement in neighbouring countries.
China’s efforts to halt illegal gambling activity has already seen it cancel the passports of citizens working for illegal gambling businesses in the Philippines, a country that has to date resisted calls to shut down its offshore gaming industry. However, the activities of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) have been temporarily suspended as a result of Covid-19.
Cambodia, however, cancelled all igaming licences, effectively shutting down its legal industry, following pressure from China.