How China’s high rollers are using phone bets to get around nation’s gambling laws

  • Chinese players wagered $27 billion in Philippine casinos in 2016
  • VIP casino rooms take phone bets from China

Chinese high-rollers are exploiting the laws in the Philippines and modern technology to get around their nation’s gambling prohibition.

Chinese phone betting Filipino casinos
Chinese high rollers are circumventing their own nation’s gambling laws by making phone bets at Filipino casinos, it has been reported. Pictures: Thinkstock.

Placing bets by telephone is illegal in most other gaming centres including Singapore, Macau and Australia but it is legal in the Philippines and many Chinese are taking advantage. The VIP rooms of many Philippine casinos feature ceiling cameras which broadcast the gaming action to China, while casino staff wearing headsets talk to Chinese clients and place bets for them, according to Bloomberg.

The increasing enthusiasm for phone betting in the Philippines among Chinese high rollers has resulted in dramatic increases in revenue locally and now accounts for up to 85% of gambling business in some casinos. Across the industry, Philippine casinos have reported upturns in VIP revenue equating to 110%, and, at a conservative estimate, it is believed that as much as $27 billion was wagered by Chinese gamblers in 2016.

Money laundering

This dramatic surge in VIP betting by proxy has led to concern about the risk of money laundering. A US government report raised the issue in March this year and the Chinese government has also been attempting to crack down on the trade, as it tries to stem the flow of money out of the country.

Last month Philippine authorities held a group of 55 Chinese nationals who were wanted by the Chinese authorities for their part in an alleged online gambling syndicate in the Manila region. But while the Philippines government of Rodrigo Duterte has been keen to stop Filipino citizens from gambling, it has continued to encourage overseas gambling trade and recently issued 35 licenses for foreigner-only betting operations.

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