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Crackdown on internet gambling announcedIvan Zhai10 February 2010The mainland has launched a six-month campaign to stamp out internet gambling as it presses ahead with it crackdown on online crime.The Ministry of Public Security said on its website that the campaign, starting this month, would focus on major online gambling cases, wipe out domestic and foreign gangs that linked up to organise online gambling and severely punish underground banks and third-party payment platforms that provided funds for gambling.Third-party payment platforms are companies that resolve online payment and credit problems.It vowed to crack down on website operators who provided information and connecting services to gambling groups and remove gambling websites and online gambling information.The statement on Monday said this was a major problem that caused a large amount of money to leave the country. It said online gambling also “severely threatened social stability, disturbed social and economic order and endangered the state’s economic safety”.In a video conference, Deputy Public Security Minister Huang Ming urged the eight bodies taking part in the campaign - including the Communist Party’s propaganda department, the Supreme People’s Court, the central bank and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology - to monitor how their subordinates nationwide implemented the crackdown.Gambling was largely eliminated on the mainland after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, along with prostitution. But they resurfaced in the 1980s after China’s opening up. Since late 2008, Beijing has repeatedly warned that the internet has become a major platform for both social ills.Nearly 5,400 people have been arrested and 9,000 illegal websites shut during a continuing crackdown targeting internet pornography.A senior information technology engineer with one of the mainland’s biggest third-party payment service companies said the campaign was also likely to serve a political purpose.The crackdown on porn sites has been criticised by some mainland internet users for tightening control on the flow of online information.He said it was rare for the Ministry of Public Security to lead a campaign targeting online money flow and third-party payment platforms and he did not believe the latter played a significant role in online gambling.According to industry statistics, the money handled by third-party payment platforms on the mainland was mainly linked to electronic commerce. “So I do not think there will be a huge amount of gambling money transmitted through the platforms,” he said. “Personally I believe the campaign is to cut off the money flow for sensitive political activities, which will soon die off without monetary support.”There is no official estimate for the size of the mainland’s online gambling industry, but Dr Wang Xuehong, director of Peking University’s China Centre for Lottery Studies, said its wider underground gambling industry could worth be up to 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.13 trillion) a year.The engineer said the third-party payment platforms would survive the campaign because they had strong government backgrounds and the whole industry had contributed greatly to the economy.
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