[OPINION] The real losers and winners of Chinese online gambling

My cousin-in-law Lim finally divorced his wife in 2018. Over the past 3 years, the young couple had been quarrelling because the wife was addicted to online gambling. She often locked herself in her room and gambled online alone. During this time, she had lost more than half a million Chinese yuan.

This is definitely not a small amount for a middle-class Chinese family.

Also in 2018, Gionee, a handset maker in China that was once better known than Xiaomi and Oppo,was forced into bankruptcy liquidation. The reason was that Gionee owner Liu Lirong gambled and lost more than 1 billion Chinese yuan in Saipan Island, leading to a shortage of operating capital and final bankruptcy.

For most Chinese, gambling is an immoral event. Traditional Confucianism holds that gambling means greed and depravity. Ironically, many Chinese literary works and academic studies have portrayed Chinese gamblers, and many people think that Chinese people are fond of gambling. I am also very confused about this.

Before the rise of online gambling in many countries, China's neighboring countries once set up casinos in border areas with China to attract Chinese tourists and gamblers. Capital flight, as well as gambling-related criminal cases, including kidnapping, personal injury, and so on, caused a lot of trouble for the Chinese government and its people. Under pressure from the Chinese government, casinos in many border areas had been shut down one after another.

However, the rise of online gambling has changed the story. With the help of the internet, gaming companies have been able to spread their tentacles into every corner of China. Driven by greed and ignorance, countless ordinary Chinese people, like moths flying toward fire, fall into online gambling and cannot extricate themselves.

Do you know why gaming companies in the Philippines employ a large number of Chinese employees and overseas Chinese from Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries? The reason is simple: because all of the Chinese employees, no matter where they are from, can speak Chinese, and most of the customers they serve are Chinese citizens. (READ: A Chinese online gambling worker's plight in Manila)

What the Chinese government can do is very limited. First of all, since a lot of capital flows through underground banks, cutting off the capital chain gets hard. It is a common problem in the world. Second, the Chinese government can, of course, shut down overseas gaming websites. For example, when I prepared for my presentation about new Chinese migrants in the Philippines last month, I found that I did not have access to gaming sites where the site server was located abroad and had been blocked by the Chinese government. However, if gambling companies often change their website, it would be difficult for the government to track it and take action. (READ: How Chinese online gambling addiction is reshaping Manila

One of my interviewees working for an online gaming outfit near the Mall of Asia told me that gaming company promoters are often active in various Chinese social media and online forums like QQ and Wechat. They promote gambling games in different ways, and they rarely publish gaming sites directly on the page of websites, which will definitely lead to the government blocking them. Gaming promoters are used to promoting their games through private, one-on-one approaches via social media, a kind of Business to Customer marketing style (B2C). (READ: Online gambling: Good for whose business?)

As virtue rises one foot, vice rises ten. 

The prosperity of online gambling has brought a lot of revenue to the Philippines. In addition, the influx of Chinese citizens in the country has also been creating more employment opportunities, and reviving real estate, construction, retailing, and so on. Of course, rising prices do make life difficult for the average Filipino, but on the whole, the Philippines still earns a lot of money from this business. These benefits, however, may come from Chinese housewives like Lim's ex-wife, or company owners, or a father, or a college student. – Rappler.com

Dr. Dai Fan is an Associate Professor and Vice Dean of the School of International
Studies/Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies at Jinan University. He was a visiting
research fellow at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines (Diliman) from
2007-2008. He built the first Center for Philippine Studies at Jinan University in 2016.
He can be reached by e-mail: fansky2000@gmail.com.