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Australian detained in China in online gaming sweep

An Australian man is believed to be among 52 people detained in China as part of a government crackdown on online gambling.

The Chinese-born man, who is believed to have an Australian passport, was detained last week in Jiangsu, a coastal province north of Shanghai, as part of a series of raids across a number of Chinese cities.

China’s official news agency Xinhua said that 52 people were detained for online gambling as part of a series of raids by more than 200 police across 13 cities.

The identities of those arrested were not reported by local media, but The Australian Financial Review believes one of those detained is an Australian. It is not known if any charges have been laid and no other details were available. However, there is not believed to be any connection with Crown Resorts.

Xinhua said in a report on February 7 that 27 people were arrested and another 25 were still detained as part of a wider investigation launched by police in Shenyang, in north-east China, targeting an online gambling group. Assets worth 43.6 million yuan ($8.7 million) were frozen as a result. The detentions took place in Guangdong, Shejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, and Guangxi.

A senior Crown Resorts executive and two other Australians were detained in China in late 2016 on gambling-related offences amid an ongoing anti-corruption and austerity drive in China under President Xi Jinping. James Packer’s China marketing team were arrested as a result of a series of raids.

Gambling in China is illegal under Chinese law and casinos are only allowed to operate in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau. China’s Ministry of Public Security announced a campaign earlier this month to crack down on gambling ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, which has traditionally been a popular time to gamble in China.

Another 37 people were detained in Henan Province in early February for online gambling, local media reported.

Local media said two of the individuals involved rented internet servers which were used to set up multiple gambling websites in China.

The country’s most popular social media platform, WeChat, said last month it had identified over 2,300 chat groups related to online gambling.

Promoting gambling is illegal on the mainland and in recent years authorities have sought to more tightly control capital outflows, particularly money leaving the country for foreign casinos.

The Crown staff were arrested in dramatic overnight raids on October 13 and 14 last year with police confiscating laptops, iPads, phones and credit cards.

The last remaining crown staff were freed last August after receiving lighter-than-expected sentencing.

Online gambling is harder to police than efforts by casinos to attract high rollers but has been a target for Chinese authorities in recent years.

Source: European Gaming Media and Events