eventually Problem Gambling, which can lead to financial, emotional and relational stress.” What would just be an effectively “national pastime”, is

decreed to be socially unacceptable and outlawed. Hence the public education campaigns in an apparent effort to deter such offenses. “China cracks US$184 million criminal syndicate bringing

One year ago, the Chinese embassy in Manila released a

statement saying online gambling in the Philippines had led to increased crimes and social problems in China, because “some gambling crimes and telecom frauds are closely connected”. The statement also said “hundreds of millions of Chinese Yuan” of gambling-related funds were flowing illegally from China to the Philippines. At the same time, the spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed a desire to see Manila crush the POGOs, stating: “Online gambling is a most dangerous tumour in modern society detested by people all across the world.” But this battle front seems lost: the POGOs represent a

source of revenue that is too important for the Duterte government, which limited itself to imposing moratorium on new licenses without moving on to more drastic measures, such as banning all activity. “They (China) can’t dictate to us,” answered Philippine ambassador to China. “Those are sovereign decisions. That is where we stand.” This is, however, only one front of the war China is waging on gambling. Another battlefront is on education, as Canadian

researcher Elisabeth Papineau underlines: “There are regular propaganda campaigns in China, often accompanied by dramatic, larger-than-life accounts in the press that attempt to denounce and eradicate gambling.” It is no accident that the official press sometimes labels gambling as “the opium of the 21st century”. “Due to the social acceptance of gambling within Chinese culture, there has been an increase in the participation rates of all forms of gambling. When gambling is considered as a recreational activity, it does not pose a threat. However, gambling can be addictive, and can result in irresponsible gambling and

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Chinese gamblers to Macau” is an example, among many others known in recent years, of information conveyed by China’s security services. The fight against crime underlying illegal gambling is the third front of this war. This particular operation, known four months ago, stands out for its depth and width. It is not limited to eliminating “an illegal criminal syndicate in Nantong city, Jiangsu Province”, which participated in illegal underground gaming (namely through an online gaming club in Haimen city for players to bet via the internet and by phone), but also involves Macau as the group brought in high-rollers to gamble in the MSAR, providing accounts in local casinos, and taking commissions ranging from 1 per cent to 2 per cent. China regards cross-border financial transactions linked

to VIP gambling, as a national security risk, but the fact that the Macau market is still very dependent on high-rollers, means that steps are taken carefully. Last August, Beijing played the last card: the government

established a “blacklist” system for cross-border gambling tourist destinations. “Casinos in overseas cities attract Chinese tourists to go abroad for gambling activities, disrupting the order of China’s outbound tourism market, and endangering the personal and property safety of Chinese citizens,” said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The announcement didn’t list the places concerned,

nevertheless JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd said: “We read this as a gentle warning to emerging jurisdictions in Southeast Asia – such as Cambodia, the Philippines or Vietnam, where proxy/video bets are allowed – and possibly to Australia, where a vast majority of VIP demand comes from China, predominantly via junkets.” According to the director-general of China’s Ministry of Public Security International Cooperation Department, Liao Jinrong, about RMB1 trillion (US$145.5 billion) in funds flows out of China into gambling activities every year, “posing a threat to the country’s economy and national security,” the Mainland press reported.

24 NOVEMBER 2020

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