China continues to send out signals that its recent efforts to stamp out online gambling in other Southeast Asian nations are no passing fancy.
On Wednesday, the state-run Global Times media outlet published an editorial by writer Wang Jiamei, who argued that “more efforts are still needed from joint law enforcement” cooperation between China and neighboring countries “for the long-term benefits of local economies.”
Wang claimed that the recent exodus of Chinese gambling operators from Cambodia following that country’s decision to phase out its online gambling licensing regime is “only a small issue” and that the crackdown “is not specifically directed at the Chinese community.”
But Wang said China’s government “strongly opposes Chinese companies that are involved in the gaming industry in Cambodia” due to most of the online gambling operations relying on mainland Chinese customers. Wang claimed that gambling poses “a threat to social development and public security” and that China and Cambodia are each “trying to eliminate those that undermine the healthy development of their economies and societies.”
Wang celebrated the launch this March of the ‘Year of Law Enforcement Cooperation’ between China and Cambodia. This cooperation has so far resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 Chinese nationals in Cambodia, one-third of which were accused of running illegal online gambling operations.
Wang took a dimmer view of other “Southeast Asian countries with relatively loose regulations” to which criminals had fled in order to engage in “fraud, online gambling and other illegal industries.” Wang cited the Philippines, Myanmar and Laos as countries in which these criminals had restarted their illegal businesses.
Wang allowed that authorities in other countries were starting to come around to China’s view of the situation — August saw China and Vietnam conduct their first joint anti-online gambling operation – and Wang also praised this month’s mass arrests in the Philippines of unauthorized online gambling and investment fraud operations. However, the Philippine government has so far resisted China’s public urging to follow Cambodia’s lead and shut down its own online gambling sector.
In July, China showed that domestic firms weren’t exempt from this new attitude. Beijing accused Asia’s leading casino junket operator Suncity Group of operating illegal online gambling sites that catered to mainland Chinese clients. Suncity denied the claims but subsequently vowed to discontinue any activities that weren’t allowed by Macau gaming regulators.
Where will it all end? As usual, China is playing its cards close to its chest, but it seems that its growing willingness to flex its muscles on the global stage will not leave online gambling untouched.