China lottery sales plunge 35%, faux ‘Genting Online’ site busted


china-busts-fake-genting-online-gambling-siteChina’s lottery sales plunged by more than one-third in October, while Chinese authorities disrupted an illegal online gambling operation piggybacking on a Genting casino brand.

On Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Finance reported that lottery sales in October totaled RMB27.55b (US$3.9b), a 34.8% decline from the same month last year. The rate of decline was much greater than September’s 13% year-on-year fall and marked the ninth straight month this year of declining sales.

The Ministry noted that October marked the first time that Beijing had imposed a ban on lottery sales during the annual National Day holiday. The results also reflect the restrictions on so-called “high-frequency, fast open” lottery products that Beijing imposed in January.

October’s sports lottery sales fell 36.2% to RMB14.9b while the welfare lottery was down 33% to $12.7b. For the year-to-date, overall lottery sales are down 19.3% to RMB343.6b.

China hasn’t permitted online lottery sales since March 2015, leaving Chinese gamblers to search out unauthorized online opportunities. On Wednesday, Chinese media reported on the bust of an illegal online gambling operation that appears to have ‘borrowed’ the identity of Malaysian gaming operator Genting.

According to the report, police in the province of Fujian arrested 18 individuals based on their involvement in an illegal gambling business that operated under the Genting Online brand. Police also froze over 1,400 bank accounts containing over RMB100m in suspected gambling funds.

The real Genting did have an online gambling division known as Genting Online but the company recently rebranded its digital offering as GentingBet, so perhaps the posers didn’t think Genting needed its old online moniker anymore.

Sketchy Chinese-facing online operators often utilize familiar gaming brands, particularly those with casino operations in Macau, to lend their operations some legitimacy in the eyes of punters. In this case, police said the faux-Genting site would pay winning punters, then encourage them to deposit ever-larger sums, after which they’d close the customers’ accounts and ignore their emails.

China has increasingly been ratcheting up its anti-online gambling efforts, widening its targets to include payment processors and promotional platforms. On Wednesday, state-run media announced the takedown of a major pirate video network, which offered videos featuring “rolling caption ads such as gambling sites … to attract netizens to participate in gambling.”

Illicit file-sharing sites have developed a reputation as major promoters of unauthorized gambling operators, with some prolific users like 1xBet singled out for scorn by major content producers. While Asia has a reputation as a copyright free-fire zone, recent busts in other Asian nations suggest the authorities may finally be paying attention.