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China's Gov't considering criminalising overseas gambling operations luring gamblers abroad

The Chinese Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has revealed it is considering an amendment that would criminalise the act of “luring” Chinese gamblers to overseas casinos.

It is also considering an increase in penalties for establishing casino operations within mainland China, where gambling is illegal.China News Service reported that the Committee will carry out a second reading of the proposed amendment to China’s criminal law this week.

The move would be in line with China’s recent clampdown on capital outflows since it identified the cross-border flow of funds for gambling as a national security risk and a potential channel for money laundering.

It has already announced it intends to issue a blacklist of gambling destinations to discourage Chinese travellers from visiting them.  

Gambling is illegal in China except for in the Macau SAR. There have been cases in the past where casino execs were jailed for trying to attract local VIP players to gamble at casinos abroad.   

In June, the Chinese central bank and top monetary authority, People’s Bank of China, also issued a statement stating that combating cross-border gambling-related financial chains would be a ‘major political mission’ assigned by China’s Central Government.

Then in August, the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced it would establish a “blacklist” of cross-border gambling tourism destinations, which will restrict Chinese citizens’ travel to overseas cities and scenic spots on the list.

Although the exact list has not yet been provided by Chinese authorities, analysts have pointed to the possible inclusion of Southeast Asian countries that have in recent years targetted Chinese gamblers through land-based or online gaming operations, such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, with Australia also a possible addition to the list.

The tightening regulations are also said to also impacted the usual financing channels used by VIP players via junkets operators and reduced available liquidity in the Macau SAR, causing an extra impact to a local gaming sector already hurting from the reduced visitor numbers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chinese authorities calculate that about RMB1 trillion (US$145.5 billion) in funds flow out of China every year through gambling.