China has always been a no-nonsense sort of country, and they’ve never been afraid of enacting draconian laws to advance their agenda. Beginning on March 1st, 2021, a measure will take effect throughout the nation, and it’s meant to act as a new weapon in the fight against illegal money transfers, junkets, and international casino marketing.

Prison for Gambling Trip Organizers

Recently approved by the National People’s Congress, the new measure takes effect on March 1st. The law applies to both citizens and foreigners, allowing prison sentences up to 10 years for anyone organizing overseas trips for the purpose of gambling.

It should be noted that the law only applies to mainland territory. This should make Macau exempt, as it’s a Special Administrative Region. Then again, it’s China, so every law is open to interpretation.

According to Xinhua, the official news agency of the People’s Republic of China, those found guilty of “serious” violations are likely to receive the maximum sentence. This also applies to violations involving large sums of money, as well as those resulting in “grave consequences.”

In classic Chinese legal fashion, no definition was provided for “serious” or “grave consequences.” This allows the courts to provide a rotating series of definitions, tossing people into prison for a decade whenever it suits their purposes.

Furthermore, the hypocrisy surrounding the measure is enough to make my eyes roll. Government officials like to paint China as a nation fighting the corrupting influence of foreign powers. In reality, the ruling body wants to keep Chinese money at home. If a high roller is going to lose a few million, better that he do it in Macau instead of Sydney.

Gambling apps are in China's dog house.

China’s War on Punting

Whether it’s due to calculated cynicism or a genuine desire to help their fellow countrymen, China seems committed to a long-term battle against illegal gambling. Below, I’ve included some details that may help explain why.

  • According to estimates, an average of 11 million Chinese residents gamble online daily. Of this number, the largest group (2.7 million) comes from the Guangdong province.
  • Chinese gamblers have around 9,000 mobile gambling apps to choose from. Some of the most popular include Royal Supreme, Yabo Entertainment, Money Tree, and Asian Games.
  • In 2020, the Ministry of Public Security arrested more than 7,500 suspects and resolved over 3,500 cross-border gambling cases.
  • According to the Ministry of Public Security, they banned or seized a number of illegal online operations. This included 890 technical support hubs, 1160 marketing affiliates, 1960 payment platforms, and 2260 gambling platforms.
  • Yongan Online, an anti-fraud outfit, released a report claiming that one out of every 80 Chinese netizens gambled online daily from December 15th to 21st.

Downturn in VIP Gambling

High roller gambling has faltered across the globe, and this is especially true in Macau. In fact, analysts estimate that it may be as long as five years before a turnaround begins.

Macau’s VIP sector started to weaken in 2019, and by 2020 it had dropped to an all-time low. Much of this can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Chinese government also shares responsibility.

As mentioned earlier, China is currently waging war against junkets, money transfers, and cross-border casino marketing. This stance has made high rollers feel uneasy, and a growing number are either staying closer to home or finding new ways to get their gambling fix.

Due to these factors, analysts predict that VIP gambling will only reach half the level of 2019. Mass gambling, meanwhile, should recover at a rate of 75%.

Additional Reading

If you’d like to know more about gambling news stories from around the globe, I suggest perusing the following articles: