Police broke up a $312 million gambling ring recently working out of China’s Anhui Province that was associated with a sports betting website based in the Philippines.
Approximately 10,000 people signed up or used the gaming site since 2016, according to Xinhuanews. So far, seven suspects were arrested by authorities investigating the online scheme.
Two defendants were sentenced, with one ordered to spend three years in prison and the second to spend three years and two months incarcerated. The five other suspects will appear in court and face sentencing later.
The cross-border gambling ring was revealed in 2018 after a gambler told police in Anhui’s Susong County he lost approximately 700,000 yuan (US $102,578) from gaming on the website.
Philippines is known for its “illegal” gambling. Efforts — led by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s law and gaming enforcement agencies — continue to scrutinize the rings.
Duterte has had a contentious relationship with the gaming industry since taking office in June 2016. He initially viewed gambling as sinister.
In 2016, the president directed law enforcement to investigate underground gambling syndicates. Last October, police cracked down once again on unlicensed online gambling operations.
Nationwide, government officials claim many gaming dens in the country fail to obtain licenses from the Philippines Gaming and Amusement Corporation (PAGCOR) to operate offshore networks.
More than 170 alleged illegal internet gaming enterprises have been raided by federal law enforcement agencies in the Philippines over the last two years. Some 100,000 Chinese foreigners also are in the Philippines helping to facilitate the illegal enterprises, authorities claim, with most of the operations targeting the Chinese market.
On Sunday, Cebu City Philippines Mayor Tomas Osmena alleged in a speech that the local police office director is protecting illegal gambling in Central Visayas, according to the Cebu Daily News. In response, Cebu City Police Office Director Royina Garma said the allegation is an “old tale.”
Duterte later eased his position on internet gambling, saying “pay the correct taxes, gamble until you die. I do not really care.”
Duterte has directed PAGCOR to make the Philippines “the top gaming and entertainment destination” in Southeast Asia by 2020. Philippines’ legal casinos won $3.6 billion last year.