China’s online sports bettors have one less viable option following the bust of a major illegal online gambling operation.
On Thursday, Chinese media reported that the Ningbo City Police in Zhejiang province had disrupted a “large-scale” online betting ring that reportedly handled RMB3b (US$439m) in wagers over an unspecified period.
The police first got word of the ring’s existence following tipoffs received from the public – including some of the ring’s disgruntled customers – in April. The Fengshua Public Security Bureau opened an investigation, leading to simultaneous raids on the ring’s operations in Zhangzhou, Haishu and Fengua in July, during the height of the 2018 FIFA World Cup action.
To date, police have arrested a total of 63 individuals suspected of involvement in the ring, including 14 of the alleged ringleaders, while a further 10 suspects remain at large. The big boss was identified as a man surnamed Dai, although the reports failed to specify whether Dai was among those who remained free.
Police also seized RMB2.25m in illegal betting profits and froze bank accounts containing an additional RMB5m. Despite the lofty claims regarding the ring’s wagering handle, police said the gang had netted a mere RMB30m, making a rather pitiful 1% hold.
The gang operated via a classic credit agent structure, with representatives on the ground collecting gambling losses and paying out winnings, while the wagers were placed with an internationally-based gambling site. Sina.com fingered the site as Redfoot I, apparently connected with the ag.hg0088.com site, which displays only a nondescript password login page.
State media outlet Xinhua also reported on a separate incident in which six people were convicted for running a “casino profit-making gambling” operation that used the popular WeChat messaging service. The gambling operation reportedly enjoyed turnover of RMB170m during its brief time in operation from June to October 2017. The accused received prison sentences of up to three years and six months, and their appeals were rejected in a Beijing court this week.
China has a zero-tolerance policy regarding online gambling, a point underscored this week after the Ministry of Finance emphatically poured cold water on hopes that it might lift its now three-year ‘temporary’ suspension of online lottery sales anytime soon.