Police in Macau have smashed a particularly unusual illegal gambling operation that involved customers on the Chinese mainland betting vicariously on the enclave’s high stakes baccarat tables via a social media messaging app.

Macau WeChat gambling ring

Chinese Security Minister Guo Shengkun has promised to intensify the crackdown on those facilitating gambling on the Chinese mainland and is unlikely to be impressed by the WeChat gambling ring. (South China Morning Post)

Confused? OK, here’s how it worked, according to police. Two or three members of the gang would gamble at casino VIP tables while accepting bets from gamblers on the outcome of the games via WeChat, China’s most popular instant messaging app.

All bets would be arranged, and results broadcast, in real-time, through the app, which allows users to create encrypted groups.

Seven Arrests

In a Thursday briefing, Macau’s Judiciary Police spokesman Tam Weng Keong said that seven Chinese nationals had been arrested, all of whom originate from the Zhejiang province. The operation was sophisticated, explained Tam.   

“According to the evidence we collected, we estimated that this gang had had, on average, at least 40 gamblers that placed bets with them on a daily basis,” he said. “Through the messenger [WeChat] on mobile phones, they communicated with the gamblers [from China] and for each game gave them about 70 seconds to place the bets.

“The suspects were very well-organised in splitting their tasks. Every one had their own position: for instance, the first and the sixth suspect were responsible for handling accounting via the computer, and controlled the wagering of their accomplices in the casino. The second and third suspects were mainly responsible for collecting the bets from the [WeChat] group members.

“So far, we haven’t found any signs of a collaboration between these suspects and the local junkets,” he added.

$1.7 Million, One Month

The gambling ring was discovered largely by accident, after police raided an apartment in the Nam Van district of Macau following a tip off it was being used as an unlicensed guesthouse.

Computers and mobile phones seized at the apartment revealed records of the betting transactions. The ring had only been in operation for around a month, but had already handled some $1.7 million in bets. The outfit made its profits, an estimated $200,000 over the course of the month, by charging player commissions and hedging bets on the game results.

Earlier this month, Chinese Security Minister Guo Shengkun promised Beijing would administer “severe punishment” to companies and individuals facilitating or marketing gambling to Chinese citizens on the mainland.