Illegal gambling ops with ties to Macau busted in China

It’s no secret that China isn’t a big fan of gambling. The country’s leaders have made it their mission to squash anything tied to casinos and has even set up a tattle line that allows people to report suspected violators in exchange for rewards of up to $7,000. The efforts seem to be paying off, as law enforcement recently arrested around 118 people for their involvement in illegal gaming activity in the city of Nantong. That was only the beginning, though, and, according to GGRAsia, police conducted more raids this week, arresting 50 people in the Jiangsu province for illegal gambling. Some reportedly were linked to Macau’s junket market. 

The operations were allegedly uncovered by two reporters working undercover to sniff out the activity. One posed as a junket representative and the other as a gambler, and recorded their findings while unraveling the intricacies of the illegal casinos. The undercover exposé was the result of a story published by The Beijing News, which had revealed that abandoned factories and empty houses in cities across the Jiangsu province were being used as pop-up casinos. 

After compiling the information, the journalists handed over the data to police, who then moved in to break up four underground casinos in Suzhou and Wuxi. Of the 50 taken into custody, some were tied to Macau’s junket segment and two were said to be the leaders of the operations. They had reportedly been setting up and tearing down their casinos in different areas on almost a regular basis in an effort to try to avoid detection. 

The casinos, according to the reporters, were offering high-stakes baccarat. They were able to attract their deep-pocketed clients because some of those involved worked for Macau junkets, and these were able to recruit the gamblers to the new, temporary gambling halls. There was no word on which junkets may be involved or if they were still active in Macau.

When Macau went on lockdown, the result was a sudden halt of access to the city, the only one in China where gambling is allowed. As such, would-be Chinese entrepreneurs have been working on ways to fill the voids, setting up illegal casinos and even trying to sneak people into Macau illegally. So far this year, in Suzhou alone, there have been 285 cases filed against illegal gaming, leading to the arrest of around 1,241 people. 

China’s crackdown on gambling has resulted in the seizure of about $32.95 billion from bank accounts, according to Reuters, and that’s only within the past couple of months. The continuing efforts have taken their toll on operators, with AG Asia Entertainment, a Philippine-based junket operator, recently shutting down and Suncity Group pulling back its operations in the Philippines over concerns of China’s account seizures. Undoubtedly, with cash being offered to those willing to snitch when they see illegal gambling, this trend of seeing illegal casinos busted and operators reducing their activity will only continue.