Overseas gambling has surged among rich entrepreneurs in east China, it has been claimed.
A report in Beijing Youth Daily said many businessmen from prosperous provinces such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces have become addicted to high-stakes gambling while on trips from the mainland.
A businessman surnamed Tong, from Ningbo, Zhejiang, said he frittered away 3 million yuan (US$37,500) in casinos on a recent three-day trip to Macao.
"I lost 40 per cent of my company's total profits last year. However, I did not bet extravagantly compared to some big Chinese 'investors'," Tong was quoted as saying.
Gambling overseas has become increasingly popular among Chinese private businessmen. They often come from Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces, where the private economy is booming, while the most extravagant gamblers are coal mine owners from North China's Shanxi Province, said Tong.
"The amount of money more than 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) that Shanxi businessmen bet on one throw dwarfs other gamblers," he said.
Some gambling addicts who rack up huge debts often linger on Macao's streets, waiting for venues to open so they can try to win back their money, Tong added.
At least six private businessmen in Yuyao of Zhejiang sold their companies to pay gambling debts and fled to avoid creditors in 2004, according to Tong.
An online gambling service Baccarat has also become popular among private entrepreneurs. Players in China use Internet connections and changeable codes to monitor and bet on live games at a location in Myanmar, according to Tong.
Li Huafang, an expert from Shanghai Financial and Law Research Institute, was quoted as saying that some middle-aged businessmen treat gambling as a way of investment to earn quick money.
Since gambling in casinos is forbidden on the Chinese mainland, underground casinos have mushroomed across the country in recent years, and overseas gambling is surging in some places.
Amid a nationwide crackdown on illegal gambling, the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Bureau launched its own campaign in January last year.
It focused on busting underground "banks" that aid overseas gambling activities, online gambling, high-stakes gambling and the gambling of government officials and managers of State-owned enterprises, according to sources from the Provincial Public Security Bureau.
By April, local police cracked more than 8,792 gambling cases, arrested 41,315 suspects, closed nine agencies of overseas gambling websites and seized 95.75 million yuan (US$11.8 million).
(China Daily January 6, 2006)