Seven Chinese citizens were arrested in Macau, as they were accused of operating a sophisticated but lucrative illegal betting scheme which involved high-stakes baccarat and WeChat, the highly popular Chinese social messaging service.
According to Macau's Judiciary police, the group encouraged Chinese mainland gamblers to bet on the results of real baccarat games happening at the VIP tables of Macau-based casinos (the police did not identify the casinos involved). The bets would be laid out and the results communicated in real-time, through the use of WeChat.
During a briefing on April 13, Thursday, Judiciary Police spokesman Tam Weng Keong stated the shady group had about 40 daily customers, and that the operation raked in US$1.3 million in bets last month alone.
How the scheme works
Two to three people will be deployed to gamble at the gaming tables and report the results of each and every game quickly via text in their WeChat group.
Their customers were given about 70 seconds to place their bets. The minimum bet was set at HK$200. What appealed to them on this operation is that it appears there was no upper limit for the wager.
Tam said, "The suspects were very well organized in splitting their tasks. Everyone had their own position: for instance, the first and the sixth suspect were responsible for handling accounting via the computer, and controlled the wagering of their accomplices in the casino. The second and third suspects were mainly responsible for collecting the bets from the [WeChat] group members."
In short, the scheme is all about getting to know beforehand the results of the side bets of every game in order to win.
The group made money by means of charging player commissions and by hedging bets on the game results. Police believe that this operation garnered about $150,000 in profits back in March 2017.
The illegal operation, assumed to be running for at least a month, was exposed after a police raid on a flat in the Nam Van district of Macau, which police considered was being utilized as an unlicensed guesthouse.
Officers became suspicious that there's some illegal activity being conducted from the property, and seized a computer containing records of betting results.
The detained seven were all from Zhejiang province, and police believe many group members are still at large.
WeChat today is a part of daily life on the Chinese mainland, allowing users to do everything from shopping, hailing taxis to navigating the streets and paying utility bills.
WeChat has a "Hongbao" feature, which allows the exchange of virtual credits that can be withdrawn as cash or used for online purchases. WeChat was recently forced to clampdown users who were abusing this feature, who used it as a "virtual red envelope", a reference to tiny money envelopes given at Chinese celebrations like weddings, birthdays and during Chinese New Year; however, many of WeChat's 840 million users effectively turned it into a betting exchange medium.