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China to ramp up punishments after increase in gambling crimes in 2021

The Supreme People's Procuratorate in China has found that the amount of gambling-related crimes rose by 27.7% in the first half of 2021 and said illegal operators should expect punishments for these crimes to increase.

Due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, figures for this year are compared to 2019 rather than 2020.

According to the body, which is China’s highest agency for prosecution and legal investigations, 46,575 people have been prosecuted so far this year for operating gambling. Gambling – aside from lotteries – is illegal in mainland China.

Of these, 40,217 of those were for crimes relating to operating a casino – accounting for 86.3%. This figure is on track to surpass 2019, when illegal casino operation accounted for 80.7% of gambling related crimes across the whole year.

Online gambling has also proved to be a major source of crime, and a more difficult one to prosecute as operators may set up servers outside of the country to evade detection from law enforcement.

While the Procuratorate claims domestic crimes have been effectively managed, cross-border gambling crimes have “gradually become a prominent problem, which requires continuous and in-depth combat”.

The Procuratorate added that these overseas gambling offenses often also endanger people in China. It said that crimes such as extortion, cyber crimes and illegal detection have been found to be linked back to cross-border gambling offences.

In addition, the body said that it was increasingly difficult to shut down illegal operations as these often involve a large number of people who may not all be arrested during a raid. The Procuratorate cited an example in the Guangdong Province where almost 700 people were arrested for a single operation.

A statement from the Procuratorate said: “In response to the long chain of new gambling crimes and the large number of people involved, law authorities at all levels have thoroughly implemented the criminal policy of combining leniency and strictness in handling cases, and dealt with organizations, commanders, planners, and backbone elements in gambling criminal groups, as well as cross-border gambling crimes.

“In the next step, the authorities will further increase the punishment of gambling crimes, and at the same time, work with relevant departments to strengthen gambling prohibition propaganda, guide the general public to stay away from gambling crimes, and curb the high incidence of gambling crimes from the source.”

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