(Yicai Global) April 16 -- China’s online gaming market has become the world’s biggest one, with more than 500 million players. However, a two-month investigation by state-run broadcaster China Central Television, CCTV, found that at many online gaming platforms, some games that seem to be merely for fun actually host gambles for gamblers.
A 31-year-old man surnamed Li, a pseudonym, who is a company employee in Shanghai and earns CNY12,000 (USD1,910) a month, began playing Texas Hold’em poker, a variation of the card game of poker, last September and quickly became addicted to it.
“I play the game every day. As long as I am not sleeping, eating or working, I am playing Texas Hold’em poker,” said Li, who has taken a punt at several platforms over the past six months. He has not only lost all his savings but also accrued a lot of debts.
Texas Hold’em poker is a multi-player card game. In the game, each player has two face-down cards, and each table has five community cards. Players are free to form any combination of the five community cards and their own two face-down cards. The outcome of a game is determined by the cards. The app PokerCircle, for example, allows the opening of more than 1,000 virtual gambling rooms a day, meaning a huge gamble involving nearly 10,000 gamblers could form.
Though online gambling is supposed to be non-public, Li told CCTV that all of the apps he has played with are publicly available and free to download in the Apple and Android stores.
Moreover, CCTV found that players blatantly gamble at these platforms with large bets.
In terms of business model, each app has many clubs. If a player wants to participate in a gamble, he must first become a club member and then transfer his money to the club manager via social messaging app WeChat run by Tencent Holdings Ltd. or Alipay, mobile payment system operated by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s fintech affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, so that he can make a bet against other members in the virtual rooms opened by the club. Players can ask the club for money if they win. Clubs do not provide free services for players and charge service fees for winning players.
Such apps have a common feature: clubs only allow members to bet against others of the same club but not against members from different clubs.
Chinese players could be held by police for five to 15 days if they pour hundreds of yuan into such gambles every day. Club managers making illegal gains from such gambles could face a sentence of up three years, and even up to 10 years in case of severe legal violations.