WeChat Warns Users Not to Gamble Through Messaging App

Posted on: February 11, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: February 12, 2018, 11:15h.

WeChat, the most popular social media application in China, is warning users amid the current Lunar New Year holiday week to avoid gambling through the mobile network.

WeChat Macau gambling casino
WeChat is openly used throughout Macau, but the app developer and local law enforcement officials are telling users not to utilize the social network for gambling purposes. (Image: Galaxy Macau)

Tencent Holdings, the developer of the app that has nearly one billion active users, says in a notice that incidences of gambling through WeChat increase during the February holiday. The tech company said it has a “zero tolerance attitude” and will report violators to the appropriate legal authorities.

Despite Macau’s Judicial Police recently carrying out several high-profile busts, the number of WeChat-based proxy operations inside casinos is thought to be increasing. Along with WeChat warning users that it’s illegal to facilitate bets through the app, Macau Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak announced this week that his agency will be working with federal authorities to better crack down on the unlawful networks.

“Crime syndicates solicited gamblers in Mainland China using WeChat chat groups, then carried out transactions via WeChat Pay,” the secretary explained at a Friday press conference. “The Judiciary Police will enhance their collaboration with mainland police departments to work on the prevention, and when necessary, investigation of such crimes.”

Also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is based on the lunisolar moon phase. Most workers have an entire week off, making the holiday a high-travel period.

Proxy Scheme

Most law-abiding Macau visitors don’t even realize they’re sitting next to a rogue proxy betting operation. Here’s how it works:

Two or three members sit at a gaming table, typically baccarat, the preferred game of choice for high rollers in China. Another operative takes bets through the WeChat messaging system, while those at the table broadcast or text the outcome of the cards.

Another remote facilitator handles the money, and the process begins all over again.

Last April, a rather sophisticated scheme took in more than $1.3 million in bets in a single month, with about 40 average daily customers. The allure is that there is no maximum wager, and the gambling can be done from the mainland.

In addition to Macau casinos, gambling venues in the Philippines have been utilized to run proxy betting networks.

All Hail WeChat

Desperate to attract as many visitors from China as possible, Caesars Entertainment recently incorporated the WeChat network to many of its Las Vegas casinos. Visitors can now pay for food, entertainment tickets, retail items, and other services through WeChat Pay.

Customers simply scan merchant QR codes, and the transaction is facilitated. MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts are all widely known to Chinese gamblers due to their Macau presence, but Caesars doesn’t have the same brand recognition.

Caesars VP of International Marketing Bruce Bommarito said the WeChat incorporation is to make Chinese customers “feel at home.” He added that marketing towards the demographic has become a key focus of the company’s international strategy.

However, WeChat Pay cannot be used to purchase gaming tokens inside Caesars casinos.