China Goes after WeChat Gambling Once More

China is about to start targeting individuals who run illegal gambling operations using the country’s popular texting & payment system, WeChat.

WeChat But Don’t Gamble

China is targeting online gambling in yet another sweeping move, with WeChat users participating or hosting related activities coming under the hits of the government. The news was announced by China’s Supreme People’s Court Deputy Director of Research Zhou Jiahai who cited several cases as the basis of the future restrictions.

Mr. Zhou said that it was the duty of the Court to mete out punishments to individuals involved in each of five severe cases of online gambling, as mandated by the cybersecurity law. He said that the individuals investigated had knowingly lured people to specific WeChat rooms and insisted that the newcomers bring others.

China's Supreme Court session.

China’s People’s Supreme Court in session.

In the online rooms, visitors would be encouraged to “guess the outcome of games”. Money was paid out using WeChat’s own money transfer service. Mr. Zhou did specify that the punishments allocated to players and organizers would be different, with the former getting up to 10 years in prison and stiff financial penalties.

The Chinese Community at Risk

China’s anti-gambling stance is not exactly new. The country has been clamping down on various gambling activities throughout 2018, including blockchain & Bitcoin operations alongside unauthorized 2018 FIFA World Cup betting.

Despite the severe measures slapped onto wrongdoers, people interested in taking a bet against the Chinese government have not diminished in numbers. Mr. Zhou explained that such individuals were causing a serious harm to the Chinese community in general.

WeChat has also been a rather favorable environment for individuals interested in hosting gambling rooms and going undetected for a fair while, enough to turn a quick buck. The government has been known to re-double its efforts in that direction, particular around the time of the Lunar New Year at the beginning of 2018.

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In February, 2018, China has been able to detect over 2,300 chat groups dedicated to various gambling activities with 30,000 active users who subsequently got their accounts either restricted or shut down entirely.

The country intensified its efforts on illegal lotteries and gambling activities in July during the FIFA World Cup, trying to uproot the practice again.

Youngsters in China Do Gamble

Speaking to Global Times, a Chain-facing news outlet, a student identified as Xue said that his college friends actively sought to participate in WeChat gambling rooms for a chance to turn an extra buck.

Mobile payment on Alipay and WeChat allows us to gamble in private with small amounts of money more conveniently. We don’t have to choose online lottery – Xue

While gambling is looked down upon, lotteries have managed to acquire a more of a cultural tint related directly to tourism. In a sense, lotteries are a stand-alone industry that is rather less repressed by the state, but still one that needs to be done out in the open lest it attracts the ire of the Chinese government in full.

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