Illegal Net soccer bets hard to police as outlets grow
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Deng Bing, a factory owner from Shenzhen, started betting on football matches through an underground online bookmaker in Shanghai last October.
Six months later, he says he has won and lost fortunes overnight and admits to being addicted to his illegal habit.
Mr Deng, not his real name, opened an account with a 10,000-yuan deposit to bankroll his wagers. Whenever he wants a bet, he asks a friend to go though the complicated online procedure to place a wager for him.
'The flow of cash is all based on trust. These days I am also a trustee for several of my friends. It is very much like a pyramid scheme, though one where the bookmaker has an intimate knowledge of each of their customers' financial situation,' Mr Deng said.
He admitted losing more than 20,000 yuan overnight, and boasts of winning as much as 12,000 yuan in one bet.
He said he knew of a Shanghai millionaire who bet his way into bankruptcy and had to pay the bookmaker with his wife's jewellery.
Insiders say there are at least 100,000 people in Shanghai betting on football through a dozen online gambling companies.
In late March local media reported that since November, Beijing customs officers had confiscated 4,254 CD-Roms containing gambling software for placing a variety of bets.
On March 15, customs agents intercepted 618 disks from Switzerland that each provided access to more than 70 online games and were destined for 20 provinces.
The most important factor behind the increase in cases is the high profit to be made and the low cost of producing the disks. This 'makes confiscating them ineffective', an official from Beijing's Customs office was quoted by Beijing Evening News as saying.
'Under Chinese law, where the bet is placed is where the crime is committed, though it is proving very difficult to police,' said Beijing lawyer, Lou Yaoxiong.
Many online gambling companies are based in the Caribbean or Central America, making the problem even more difficult for Chinese police to monitor.
Liu Deliang , director of Beijing Post and Telecommunications University's Internet Law Study Centre, said criminal law should be amended to ban all online gambling, especially online games, which remained a legal grey area.