Drones Monitor Illegal Gambling in China, Surveil US Casinos

Posted on: April 4, 2019, 11:18h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2019, 12:09h.

Chinese authorities continue to successfully employ drones to locate illegal mobile casinos — with some of the captured suspects facing up to a decade in prison.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Adam Wandt says drones are increasingly used by law enforcement to monitor casinos as well as illegal gambling (Image: YouTube)

Last week, 35 suspects were arrested or detained in a remote area of Anhui — a province in eastern China — People’s Daily Online reported. The concealed gambling den — apparently housed temporarily in tents — continually relocated — so it was difficult for police to conduct a raid — and organizers had guards on watch for police activity, the Daily Mail said.

Helped by a tip, some 50 officers stood guard at 1 kilometer away, then sent a drone over the area to provide a live video on March 25. Police then raided the crime scene. Among the 35 suspects, were 13 who tried to flee into the woods. The drones helped police to locate them.

About 30,000 yuan (US$4,466) and various gambling devices were seized by authorities.

Drones have assisted Chinese police since last year in cracking down on illegal gambling.

In the past year, police used drones in Fujian, Guangdong, Hubei and Guangxi provinces to locate and arrest illegal gamblers. For instance, last July police apprehended 31 suspects in Guangxi Province after a raid.

And in February officers in Guangdong Province used drones to prevent gambling during Chinese New Year.

It makes a lot of sense to me,” Adam Wandt, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told Casino.org, about Chinese authorities using drones to investigate illegal gambling. “I’m not surprised to see the Chinese government doing that.”

He points out that China does not have same commitment to civil liberties that one finds in the United States or Canada, so there is less concern about using such technology.

“It’s not particularly invasive,” he added.

Drones can monitor large areas and follow trucks and other vehicles, and capture a video feed of suspects’ movements, Wandt said.

Military drones can surveil multiple sites, and police can use thermal heat to see through walls, as well as use infrared cameras, according to Wandt.

On the other hand, drones are also shrinking in size and some can fit in the palm of a hand.

Last September, Menashe Haskin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Edgybees, predicted drones will be used in every US police department within the next two years, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Drones Used at Casinos

Even private businesses, such as large brick and mortar casinos, are increasingly using drones, Wandt said. He said they provide an aerial view of the venue’s complex, including parking areas, which goes beyond more traditional surveillance cameras — and drones are particularly useful for special events held at the facilities.

US law enforcement has used drones to track illegal drugs and suspected terrorists, too. They can also be used to monitor crops, road hazards and environmental risks, Wandt said.

One added benefit with drones is that they are unmanned so there is less risk of casualties than with a manned helicopter or a plane.

Drones are just not used to monitor for illegal activity at gambling venues. In January, British racetrack officials called for a ban on the unauthorized use of drones during races, which they say gamblers are using to gain a split-second edge for betting on horses.

Macau Gambling Popular

In China’s Macau, there are six gaming operators and 41 casinos, and several of these may expand.

Across the board, overall revenue and the number of visitors to Macau began to improve in Q3 of 2016, and in 2018, visitation increased by 9.8 percent to 35.8 million. Casinos on Macau saw about HK$294.03 billion (US $37.46 billion) in gaming revenue during 2018, an increase of approximately 13.96 percent over 2017’s approximate HK$258.00 billion (US $32.87 billion), “making Macau the largest gaming market in the world,” the company said in its recent financial report.

Except for Macau, gambling is illegal in China, and gamblers can face up to three years in prison. Ring leaders can be sentenced for 10 years.