Betting Operation of ‘WeChat’ busted in Macau
Seven men accused of operating an illegal betting ring have been arrested in Macau. The seven Chinese nationals accused were operating a highly unusual gambling venture. It involved high stakes baccarat and the social messaging service WeChat.
The WeChat service is very similar to that of WhatsApp. WeChat is the biggest social messaging service in China. However, in the past it has been used by savvy individuals to facilitate illegal gambling. This is done via the use of ‘digital red envelopes’
As per the statement issued by the Macau’s judiciary police, the gang was encouraging betting activity on the outcome of real baccarat games. More specifically they encouraged Chinese mainland gamblers to bet on the outcome of games taking place at VIP tables elsewhere. These VIP tables were located in various Macau properties. Bets were arranged and results were communicated in real time via the social messaging application.
Tam Wen Keong, the spokesperson for the Judiciary Police, claimed that the gang had around 40 different groups; each of which contained around two to three members. These members were then sent to the different VIP tables at Macau venues to gamble and then report the results from each of these games immediately via text in their WeChat group.
The punters from mainland China were given 70 seconds to place their bets. A huge appeal for this illegal activity was that there was no upper limit for the wager.
Tam went onto state that “The suspects were very well organised in splitting their tasks. Everyone 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.”
The group was able to profit through this activity by charging player commissions and by hedging bets on the game. In terms of profit levels, the gang was able to generate USD $150,000 in profits last month alone.
The operation was blown wide open when the police decided to raid a residential flat. The flat was located in the Nam Van district of Macau and it was being used as an unlicensed guest house. The officers became suspicious of the activities being conducted in the flat and were able to seize a computer in the raid as well. The computer was found to contain records of betting results.
The alleged criminals were all from Zhejiang province. Tam believes that several members of the gang are still on the run.
“So far, we haven’t found any signs of a collaboration between these suspects and the local junkets,” Tam told GGRAsia.
Recently WeChat also came under fire for another feature they offered their customers. The service provider was forced to clampdown on users abusing its ‘Hongbao’ facility. Hongbao essentially allowed users to make use of a virtual credit. This could be used for online purchases and even withdrawing cash. This facility was initially envisioned to act as a digital red envelope. This is a reference to the small packets of money that Chinese give one another at celebrations. These celebrations include the Chinse New Year and weddings. Unfortunately, many of the WeChat users turned it into a betting exchange. With a user base of 700 million individuals, this eventually escalated into a big problem for the social messaging service.