Despite multi-million dollar busts by the police, Chinese punters continue to find a way to wager
The Euro 2016 football championship in Europe continued to generate intense Chinese betting interest this week as the quarter finals approached, creating a spike in illegal online gambling despite major police gambling ring busts and crackdowns on suspected gambling activity by technology and ecommerce giants Alibaba and Ten Cent.
The Reuters news agency reports that groups of friends have been using Wechat for friendly wagers, paid out through Alibaba-linked Alipay, WeChat or 'red packets'…digital versions of traditional envelopes stuffed with cash.
Chinese police say they have seen a surge in illegal gambling online. In a single bust last week, police in southern Guangdong province arrested 147 people and froze funds worth nearly 100 million yuan ($15 million).
Tech giants Alibaba and Ten Cent say they have specific tiered systems designed using behavioural patterns to identify and halt suspected gambling, and that these are backed by human monitoring. A spokesman said that more staff are being added to counteract gambling.
Tencent said it is doing more to stamp out gambling on its platforms like WeChat, including restricting groups suspected of gambling behaviour and punishing individual account holders. It said it has put limits on more than 8,000 WeChat groups, and has limited the payment and 'red packet' capabilities on more than 6,000 accounts.
Reuters notes that a soccer investment boom in China has helped propel interest in the game. Chinese firms have invested in overseas clubs, player agencies and media rights firms, and global soccer stars have moved to China in multi-million dollar deals.
"With the European Cup everyone's betting on soccer, but also over the last couple of years China's soccer market has developed rapidly. Big investments and star names create a real lure," Hu Naijun, an assistant professor at the University of Science and Technology Beijing, told Reuters.
The anonymous organiser of an online gambling group told the news agency that he and four other organisers had a pot of 5 million yuan ($750,706) and that dozens of people would join for each game.
"In one night there will be millions placed in bets," he said, adding it had become a lucrative business. "For the final, we'll probably go to Macau or Hong Kong and spend the whole week in the presidential suite."
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