The latest version of an amendment to China’s criminal law – that would create an offence applicable to any person who either “organises or solicits” mainland residents to participate in “overseas” gambling – proposes that such offence should be punishable by a prison term of more than five years, and up to 10 years. The punishment would be applicable for cases where the amounts of money involved are considered “serious”, or for cases considered to have “grave consequences”.
State-run media outlet China News Service had reported on October 13 the planned creation by the country’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of an offence of, in effect, luring Chinese people for overseas gambling.
The latest draft was published on Wednesday. The relevant amendments under Article 303 of the Criminal Law – outlined on the WeChat social media account of the National People’s Congress – have been made available for the public to comment on them, until November 19.
One of the amendments concerns an increase in penalties for setting up a casino on mainland territory.
The latest draft suggests the penalty should range from imprisonment for fewer than five years, plus a fine, to “control along with a fine”. Under the new proposal, in cases where the setting up of a pirate mainland casino had “grave consequences”, it would result in “imprisonment of more than five years, and up to 10 years, along with a fine”.
The current penalty for setting up a casino in mainland currently ranges from a jail term of fewer than three years plus fine, to “control along with a fine”. It can be increased to up to 10 years of imprisonment in cases with “grave consequences”.
China’s Ministry of Public Security stated on Thursday the authorities had identified in the first nine months of this year, the equivalent of nearly US$150 billion due to exit the country for “cross-border” gambling activities.
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai, president of Macau casino operator Sands China Ltd, reiterated during the parent firm Las Vegas Sands Corp’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday that the Macau casino sector did not believe the law amendment was aimed at Macau. The city is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
Mr Wong stated: “We understand the National People’s Congress is still debating the final form of that legislation. But we must remember that the main target is really gambling in foreign countries, including particularly Internet and telephone betting.”
He added Macau had “never been considered foreign in China”.
The Sands China executive further stated: “All of the [casino] concessionaires in Macau respect the law in China, and we never promote gaming in China, only our hospitality and MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] facilities and services.”
He additionally noted: “We believe Macau… has a unique place under the ‘One country, two systems’” arrangement in China and the Macau operators would “continue to operate” under the terms of the amended legislation.