China, Hong Kong cops bust major illegal online gambling ring


china-hong-kong-online-gambling-arrestsAuthorities in Hong Kong and mainland China have rumbled yet another massive cross-border illegal online gambling operation.

On Monday, China’s official state media agency Xinhua announced the arrests on Sunday of 71 individuals suspected of involvement in a major online gambling ring that involved illegal wagering by mainland gamblers on Hong Kong’s legal gambling industry.

Police in the Chinese province of Guangdong reportedly received a tip in April regarding websites that allowed mainland punters to place bets on international football matches, as well as horseracing put on by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC).

On Sunday, hundreds of police carried out simultaneous raids on dozens of locations in both jurisdictions, leading to the arrests of 48 individuals in Guangdong and a further 23 suspects in Hong Kong.

Guangdong police claim to have frozen RMB 21m (US $3.2m) worth of online wagers, while Hong Kong police froze wagers worth around HKD 100m ($12.8m). Police in both jurisdictions also confiscated significant amounts of cash, in addition to computers, phones, betting slips and other tools of the illegal trade.

The South China Morning Post quoted Organized Crime and Triad Bureau chief inspector Bert Lo Chung-wong saying that the ring was organized into four tiers: “overseas bookmakers, senior brokers, brokers and gamblers. The senior brokers sometimes acted as the bookmakers and received bets directly from gamblers. Or they passed the bets to overseas bookmakers to earn brokerage.”

This spring, China announced that it was stepping up its campaign to identify, arrest and severely punish illegal gambling operators. China’s Ministry of Public Security has demonstrated its eagerness to cooperate with its counterparts in other Asia-Pacific countries to combat cross-border online gambling operations.

Similar cross-border crackdowns are expected to ramp up dramatically in the coming months as China braces for the quadrennial betting bonanza that is the FIFA World Cup. This year’s betting volumes are expected to be significantly greater than recent World Cups, given that the 2018 event is taking place just over the border in Russia, meaning the games will take place during prime viewing hours for Chinese punters.