Police in eastern China have busted a gambling ring that exploited the Chinese tradition of hongbao (red envelope) to organise gambling on social networking site Wechat.
Following complaints by losing players, the police in Taizhou mounted a sting operation which resulted in the break-up of the gambling enterprise, according to Li Kangcheng, vice director of the local police station.
“The group had several hundred members. Sometimes, the gambling lasted round the clock,” he revealed, explaining that a hongbao is traditionally a monetary gift for special occasions in Chinese culture, and is offered in a red envelope.
The illegal betting organisers used Wechat to subvert the hongbao custom; gamblers paid an initial guarantee deposit and then sent in money, leaving it to the organisers to randomly allocate winnings at various levels to participants, using an app. The Wechat facilities enabled inter-member cash transfers, and the organisers took a 5 percent cut of the money sent in.
In under a year the enterprise was said to have attracted millions of punters
Cheng Lingjie, divisional director with the Taizhou Public Security Bureau, admits gambling through Wechat poses a new challenge for police.
“The gambling on Wechat can be conducted everywhere and at any time. It’s easy to become rampant, given that it’s easy to join. A Wechat account and a cheap cellphone are enough,” he said, revealing that thus far eight suspects have been arrested, with more than 10 million yuan involved.