China’s illegal gambling penalties are about to get a lot stiffer for individuals who organize informal gambling rings on the WeChat social media platform.
On Christmas Day, Zhou Jiahai, deputy director of the research office of China’s Supreme People’s Court, issued a directive spelling out “five guiding cases for severely punishing cybercrime.” Zhou (pictured) said it was the “unshirkable statutory duty of the judiciary to severely punish cybercrime in accordance with the law and effectively maintain cybersecurity.”
Among these five cases was one involving four individuals who sought to profit “by inviting people to join the WeChat group to attract gamblers and by guessing the results of the game website, etc.” Another case involved the use of WeChat’s popular ‘red envelope’ money transfer service to facilitate gambling on the social network.
Zhou said individuals who engage in such activities will now face the same punishments as those who operate illegal casinos under Article 303 of the Criminal Law. Individuals convicted under this section of the law face stiff financial penalties and up to 10 years behind bars.
Zhou’s missive claimed that the illicit use of WeChat’s red envelopes for gambling purposes had the potential to inflict “serious” harm on Chinese society. The government is therefore urging members of the judiciary not to spoil the rod when dealing with transgressors and thus “educate and guide the public to abide by the law and discipline.’
WeChat groups have proven a popular conduit for allowing Chinese citizens to engage in rudimentary forms of online gambling, any form of which is strictly forbidden in China. The government has periodically stepped up its crackdowns on these illicit WeChat activities, particularly surrounding the Lunar New Year celebrations, during which the exchange of ‘red envelopes’ increases.
WeChat has also proven a handy tool for gambling operators to livestream live table game action from casinos outside China to members of specific WeChat groups for remote gambling purposes. Just this month, WeChat was forced to deny reports that its online payment systems were being offered to gamblers at a casino in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang.