Sands China Denies App Targeted by Chinese Internet Cops

Posted on: January 3, 2019, 07:10h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2019, 07:10h.

Sands China — the Asian wing of US casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS) — has denied its app has been blacklisted by the Chinese government.

Sands China
The Sands Macao’s Chinese app appears to have been outlawed by Central Government in late December, although it may be a case of mistaken identity. (Image: Sands China)

The announcement follows a December 28 release by the Cyberspace Administration of China, listing 3,469 apps targeted for removal from the Chinese App Store for reasons that include the promotion of gambling — a serious crime on the mainland. Among them is an app referred to as “Sands Macao.”

Sands China has an app called “Sands Resorts Macao,” which allows users in mainland China to book hotel rooms and keep track of loyalty rewards. It also includes promotional offers.

“Sands China confirms that all our official mobile apps continue to be accessible and function normally from within China,” said the company in a statement to the Macau News Agency. “Our applications and websites comply strictly with Chinese laws and regulations.”

The Great Firewall

Gambling is illegal on the Chinese mainland with the exception of the national lottery and the state-run sports lottery.

Central government operates a vast program of domestic internet regulation and censorship, which has been dubbed “the Great Firewall” and has recently doubled down on its efforts to extinguish undesirable apps, as well as gambling operators offering proxy betting via social messaging platforms.

Last year, Apple bowed to pressure from the government and state media, purging around 25,000 gambling-related apps from the Chinese App Store.

Apple has also culled dozens of apps offering virtual private networks (VPNs), which enabled Chinese internet users to skirt the Great Firewall by disguising the user’s location. VPN’s have been banned in China and developers of any such software sold to the Chinese market face imprisonment.

Copycat Apps

In the light of Sands China’s repudiation, it appears likely that the app targeted by the Cyberspace Administration is one of many unlicensed copycats — a rogue online gaming operator incorporating the company’s trademarks and intellectual property without permission.

Such sites are nothing new — operators have been playing a cat and mouse game with them for years. But in an interim report of last September Sand’s China’s competitor, Wynn China, said that intellectual property theft of its Macau brands was not only on the rise but also increasing in sophistication.

The company said these sites and apps were highly professional and “appear legitimate,” often featuring false statements and logos in an attempt to disguise themselves as belonging to international casino companies approved by government authorities.

In 2015, LVS won a lawsuit against 35 Chinese online gambling websites that had appropriated the company’s logo and intellectual property. LVS was awarded $2 million in damages and granted a permanent injunction against the websites, which were ultimately removed from the web.

If the Sands Macao app is indeed the work of a rogue operator, LVS will be delighted that the People’s Republic of China is doing its work for it.