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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 11:39 GMT
China cracks down on gambling
By Louisa Lim
BBC News, Beijing

A worker at the new Greek Mythology Casino in Macau prepares a table in one of the casino's gambling halls, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004
Many Chinese go to nearby Macau to try their luck
China's authorities have announced a campaign to stop rampant gambling, especially among government officials.

When the communists took over in 1949 they branded gambling "a paramount evil" and banned it.

Although it is still illegal, it has been making a comeback in various forms.

Official gambling habits shot into the headlines last month, when it emerged a senior official had made at least 15 trips to a North Korean casino.

After losing $300,000 in public funds, Cai Hao-wen disappeared and went on the run.

And huge amounts of Chinese money, both private and apparently public funds too, are crossing the border in this way.

One official estimate is that Chinese gamblers spend $70bn a year at foreign casinos and race-courses.

Stopping Chinese from betting money overseas will be a focus of this latest campaign. But gambling also persists at home, though under other names.

At horse racing tracks, race-goers can buy what is called a guessing voucher for one particular horse, to be exchanged for cash prizes if the animal wins its race.

Though illegal, punters also often bet on mah-jong games and even cockfights in some parts of the country. Indeed it seems no activity is immune.

Last year police in Shanghai even busted a ring of 200 hardcore gamblers who had been placing bets on the ancient Chinese hobby of cricket fighting.

Media reports said the minimum bet on each insect was $600.




SEE ALSO:
China cadre loses all in N Korea casino
16 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
China's graft: Tough talk, old message
27 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
13 Aug 04 |  Country profiles


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