In many parts of society, informing on other individuals is considered taboo. In fact, it’s even given rise to the phrase “snitches get stitches,” which promises dire consequences for those who cooperate with authorities.

The Chinese government, however, is taking a different approach as part of their nationwide anti-gambling campaign. They’re actively encouraging citizens to inform on (possibly) guilty parties, as well as promising financial compensation as an incentive.

A Great Leap Forward

On June 5th, the Ministry of Public Security unveiled a “comprehensive reporting platform” designed to fight the effects of gambling that stretches outside China’s border. Just two months prior, they said that these cross-border crimes “seriously injure the public’s lawful rights and interests and seriously impact health, economic, and social development.”

The announcement earlier this month comes on the heels of numerous arrests, especially for those operating illegal online gambling services. In Nantong, for example, authorities busted up an operation worth $183.4 million and quickly gave its ringleader a 16-year prison sentence (and a fine of $17.4 million).

Here are the basics of how the anti-gambling program works:

  • Citizens can report illegal gambling activities via smartphone, email, fax and official website.
  • In addition to filing new reports, especially diligent citizens can check out the status of previous complaints.
  • An illegal gambling blacklist is being created, focusing on both casino operators and their staff.
  • Citizens who have participated in online gambling are encouraged to confess their crimes and “seek leniency according to law.”
  • The People’s Bank of China is cracking down on payment providers who help facilitate deposits into online casinos. All financial transfers outside the mainland will receive additional scrutiny, despite an existing annual limit of $50,000.

Now we come to the carrot at the end of the stick. In addition to making things right with the Communist Party, citizens are being offered financial incentives. This applies to anyone who provides “international gambling crime clues.”

Chinese police prepare to bust illegal gambling operation

Early Adopters

This week, the Jilin province announced it would be implementing the new anti-gambling program on a trial basis. Cash rewards up to $7,000 are available, and the following are squarely in the crosshairs:

  • Companies that promote online gambling to Chinese residents.
  • Agents who execute financial transactions from Chinese nationals to online casinos.
  • Companies that provide technical assistance to online casinos targeting Chinese citizens.
  • Agents who entice Chinese residents to travel outside the country for the purposes of gambling.

While the above groups/individuals are the main target of the crackdown, citizens are also encouraged to rat on friends, family, neighbors, and even themselves. Financial payouts vary, although the largest amounts are reserved for information leading to arrests, trials, and convictions.

Legitimate Problems

While the approach of the government may seem heavy-handed to some, China does face a number of legitimate issues. With the exception of state-run lotteries, gambling is illegal throughout the nation. However, that hasn’t stopped residents from spending an estimated $145 billion per year on Internet gambling. And that’s not even taking into account non-sanctioned lotteries, mahjong parlors, and underground casinos.

In 2016, eighteen Crown Casino employees were arrested for trying to lure VIP players off the mainland. This led to Crown’s high-roller spending falling by 45.3%, as well as an overall drop in profits of 9.1%.

And let’s not forget about the Philippines, where more than 100,000 Chinese nationals work for online casinos targeting their fellow countrymen. In fact, these offshore gaming operators draw an estimated 90% to 95% of their customers from China.

Employees are tasked with befriending Chinese residents in chat rooms and convincing them to give online gambling a try. Once this has occurred, the next step is to urge their new “friend” to risk increasingly large sums of money.

While their behavior is despicable, these employees also face dangers of their own. Many have their passports confiscated and are held as virtual slaves, while others fall into debt and run afoul of loan sharks. In extreme cases, creditors may even kidnap them in an effort to attain ransom payments from family or friends back on the mainland.

Additional Reading

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