Wang fled China for the Philippines this February after local authorities began rounding up members of his illegal online credit betting operation. Following his prolonged and occasionally farcical efforts to sway Philippine immigration authorities to allow him to stay, Wang was escorted back to China this weekend to face his lumps.
Upon Wang’s return, Chinese media began publishing details on a related crackdown in Heilongjiang province involving the Philippines-based ‘Dafa 888’ group. The authorities claimed to have frozen RMB 230m (US $37m) belonging to the operation, which involved gamblers in over 10 provinces. Around 125 individuals connected with the ring have been detained.
The media reports prompted Dafabet’s parent company AsianBGE Ltd, a subsidiary of sports betting technology provider AsianLogic, to issue a statement denying any current connection to Wang, whom they say “severed all ties” with the company in 2012.
AsianLogic, which is owned by Hong Kong resident Tom Hall, claimed that its Dafabet brand was only cited in the Chinese media articles “to provide historical context.” AsianLogic went on to claim that the investigations in question were related to activities surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup, although China Radio International reported that at least two Dafabet sites were among those blocked in the current crackdown.
AsianLogic’s statement also claimed that none of the frozen bank accounts mentioned in the articles has no connection to the company, as it “does not operate in this manner.”
The ‘manner’ that AsianLogic referred to is credit betting, a common practice in Asian grey- and black-markets, where financing an online gambling account via credit card or bank transfer is problematic. Many Asian-facing betting sites utilize a network of agents on the ground to handle cash transactions, an inherently unreliable system that is both costly – due to commissions paid to these agents – and prone to interdiction by local authorities.
There are signs that credit betting is going to become even more difficult. As Beijing continues to staunch the flow of money high-rollers attempt to funnel to Macau casinos, they are casting an ever-widening net. Over the weekend, China News Service said police in Jiangsu, Shanghai, Hebei and Beijing had begun targeting agent networks on the ground in China.
China’s notorious Ministry of Public Security is reportedly overseeing this operation, which has been dubbed ‘Chain Break.’ Analysts at the Sanford Bernstein brokerage issued a note on Monday saying this agent network is believed to be handling over RMB 6b (US $1b) and that the crackdown is “targeting foreign casino activities.”
Given the Chinese state-run media’s full-court press regarding Wang’s return and the extent of the details provided on the related illegal online activities, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Chain Break’s scope could have grown to encompass illegal credit betting sites.
AsianLogic may claim to have no ties to credit betting operations but Beijing appears unconvinced, at least, in connection with the Dafabet brand.