China to Levy Prison Sentences on Those Who Organize Gambling Trips

China has officially amended its Criminal Law to allow courts to issue prison sentences on people who are found guilty of organizing trips abroad with the intent to gamble.

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Police in China are on the lookout for people organizing overseas trip to gamble. (Image: Nikkei Asia)

The National People’s Congress approved a measure that was first floated in the state legislature back in October. A standing committee in the Congress accepted the measure, and this week the full lawmaking body signed off on the decree.

Effective March 1, 2021, anyone arrested and found guilty of organizing overseas trips to gamble will face up to 10 years in prison. The penalty applies to both Chinese citizens and residents, as well as foreigners who are detained in the People’s Republic.

The maximum penalty is reserved for the most “serious” violators where large amounts of money are involved. Xinhua — the official news agency of the People’s Republic of China — confirmed the gaming law change.

Macau Melee

Macau, the world’s richest casino center, is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. The enclave has its own local laws, but under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, Macau is represented by China in foreign diplomacy and national defense.

China bans all forms of gambling on the mainland, its state-run lottery being the exception. China also prohibits VIP junket groups in Macau — which cater to China’s wealthy elites — from marketing their services.

Though the Criminal Law amendment did not specify whether Macau is considered outside China’s borders, the substantial prison penalties will likely change how junkets do business.

By the term ‘outside the borders,’ that could mean activities that are conducted in the Special Administrative Regions — i.e., Hong Kong, Macau — as well as Taiwan,” Wang Changbin, a gaming professor at the Macau Polytechnic Institute, told GGRAsia.

“This legal change could have implications for Macau’s junket sector. I think they could be the ones taking the biggest hit,” Wang added.

Gambling Crackdown

China is trying to better limit the flow of money from the People’s Republic to casinos in foreign lands. The country’s Ministry of Public Security said in October that the agency believes around $150 billion had moved out of the country for gambling purposes in 2020 alone.

President Xi Jinping sees the large movement of capital as a threat to China’s national security.

The Public Security office says it has arrested 60,000 suspects allegedly involved in cross-border gambling operations. The law enforcement agency adds that there are currently more than 8,800 active cases.

To highlight just how committed the Chinese government is to ridding the mainland from gambling-related marketing, the country earlier this month banned TripAdvisor. The Cyberspace Administration of China prohibited the online travel booking platform for “providing illegal services such as gambling.”

One of the amenities TripAdvisor offers users to search is a casino being included at the desintation. That’s not unique to TripAdvisor, however, as Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and other popular travel booking sites do as well.

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