A recent expose explores the nexus between an Australian casino, Asian organized crime, and Chinese elites.
In 2012, Xi Jinping assumed the post of general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As media from around the world focused in on the new leader of the world’s most populous country and second largest economy, Xi turned his attention to the pressing problems within the CCP. “The metal itself must be hard for it to be turned into iron,” he said, alluding to his plans to crack down on corruption within Party ranks.
Within weeks, Xi launched what would become one of the most expansive anti-corruption drives in modern Chinese history. The Party’s corruption watchdog, the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection, reported recently that more than 1.5 million officials have been punished.
The initial crackdown targeted high-ranking military officers, former national leaders, private and state company executives, as well as many of Xi’s political rivals. But in August 2017, the CCP issued official rules on what it called “irrational” overseas investments, which served as a direct threat to the lucrative Chinese offshore gambling market.
In China’s special administrative region of Macau, gambling tourism makes up around 50 percent of the economy. Macau, commonly referred to as the “gambling capital of the world,” brought in almost six times Las Vegas’ gambling revenue in 2018.
Most of those who gamble in Macau are from mainland China. Desmond Lam, a professor at the University of Macau and author of The World of Chinese Gambling, wrote in 2009, “Today, eager Chinese players can be seen all around the world, their behaviors in casinos quite distinct from that of Western gamblers.”
In mainland China, gambling and the promotion of gambling is illegal and the ban is heavily enforced. In 2015, around 100 people were arrested for operating an international online gambling ring that had more than 1 million members and receipts totaling $78.8 billion.
A few months later, another 500 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in a country-wide sport betting ring. It was in October 2016 though, when 19 employees from Australia’s Crown Casino were arrested in China and charged with the promotion of gambling that Xi’s war on gambling made headlines around the world.
Outside of Chinese jurisdiction, Chinese high-rollers spend billions on tables in Australia, Saipan, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, and other destinations. Many of these high-rollers keep their money offshore, investing in property or shares. Others, however, could possibly be laundering billions of dollars back into China every year, often via criminal organizations.
Late last month several Australian news outlets — The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel Nine News — published a damning investigation into links between Australia’s Crown Casino, Asian organized crime, and members of Xi Jinping’s family.