Hammer Time: China cracks down on illegal and legal gambling operators in the region

Author Thomas Wolf
August 20, 2020 3 min read

This week, an exclusive report from Reuters revealed the huge scale of China’s latest round of whack-a-mole with illegal online gambling operators – and the quasi-legal market of Macau.

Chinese Communist Party agencies have seized over 200 billion Yuan (~$30 billion) in cash and assets since the beginning of July.

In the previous month, government officials cited cross-border gambling transactions as a threat to national security. This blanket crackdown included many legitimate companies based in Macau that provide services to Chinese gamblers who visit the Semi-Autonomous Region.

These seizures and bank account closures are impacting what is already a beleaguered industry in the former Portuguese colony. Macau’s casinos have seen a huge drop-off in Chinese customers since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city also suffered the loss of it iconic casino impresario Stanley Ho back in June when he died aged 98.

Not long before the pandemic arrived, the city saw one of the worst typhoons in recent memory. 2020 has been an especially tough year for the “Asian Las Vegas,” and if the Chinese government has anything to do with it, it’s not likely to ease up anytime soon.

Combatting cross-border gambling

The practice of casino junkets for VIP players, while standard in American gambling hubs, has long been frowned upon by China.

Macau-based companies advertise to and sign up customers on the mainland, where gambling is completely illegal.

These schemes have made up the bulk of the billions of dollars seized in the past few months, although illegal mainland operators have also been shut down in droves.

One such Macau junket operator bringing in valuable customers from the mainland is known as Suncity.

Although not an illegal service in itself, any transactions related to gambling completed between the mainland and Macau are against Chinese law.

This means Suncity junket players legally can’t pay for anything, deposit money, or make any withdrawals unless they’re physically in Macau. 

The new pressure from Chinese authorities, along with a healthy spin of the rumor mill, convinced many investors and customers that Suncity was in the firing line.

Between the 9th and 11th of August, over 900 VIP customers withdrew all their holdings from Suncity accounts, and WeChat pictures showed queues going around the block outside Suncity’s Macau offices.

Proxy Lotteries

Not only has the CCP been closing bank accounts and seizing assets left, right, and center, but it has also upped its public information campaigns (which some would call propaganda) against gambling.

All across China’s various social networks and e-commerce sites, users are being encouraged to share stories of how illegal gambling has harmed them or people they know.

Submissions have been encouraged via video, song, and short film, as well as text. There are even prizes for the most popular examples, including laptops and other tech gadgets.

Just last month, China expunged over 300,000 gambling-related posts from WeChat. It also charged a Honk Kong woman who was taking proxy entries into the legal Hong Kong lottery via the social media service.

Such illegal proxy lotteries are increasingly common in China. However, this woman received one year in prison for her small-scale personal operation.

We can only imagine what sentences the operators of large illegal businesses might face if they get caught.

For the latest updates on this developing story, plus other hot topic stories in the gambling world, keep checking online.casino/news. 

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

396 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.

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