Bet365 defends online gambling operation in China

8 October 2014

Online gambling operator Bet365 said that its internet gambling operations in China are breaking no laws despite the country having outlawed betting in all but a number of controlled scenarios.

The operator’s claim comes in response to a report by the Guardian newspaper, which said that despite having no physical presence in China, Bet365 has one of the most successful online gambling services accessible from inside the country.

Evidence collected by the newspaper suggests that a number of Chinese Bet365 customers have been detained for interacting with online betting firms while Bet365 also often changes its website’s address in the country to side-step attempts by local regulators to shut sites down.

In addition, the operator has set up a call centre in the UK staffed by Chinese-speaking workers, while a complex system has also been constructed to allow Bet365 to take bets in the Chinese renminbi currency.

The newspaper also said that of the £1.3 billion (€1.7 billion/$2.1 billion) won by gamblers in 2013, only half of this came from countries in which Bet365 is licensed and although this does not imply the rest was won in markets where the operator is not licensed, analysts suggest a large proportion came from the Chinese market.

One former Bet365 employee said that it was “100% true” that the operator regularly changed the name of websites to avoid local authorities shutting them down, whilst another former staff member said there is nothing the Chinese government can do to block websites.

In response to the report, Bet365 said in a statement: “Bet365 takes its legal and regulatory obligations very seriously and is licensed to undertake its activities by relevant regulatory authorities across a variety of jurisdictions and is compliant with all applicable legislation.

“There is no legislation that expressly prohibits the supply of remote gambling services into China by operators who are based outside China.

“Bet365 has no people, assets or infrastructure in China and does not engage any agents, aggregators or intermediaries, for any purpose, in China.

“In the view of bet365, and its lawyers, Chinese law does not extend to the provision of services into China by gambling operators and service providers who themselves have no nexus with the territory. Any allegation of illegality on the part of bet365 is therefore untrue.”

The operator also said it does not receive “renminbi from payment processors or otherwise”, and that it is not aware of “anyone in China being prosecuted for using its services”.

In 2005, China published judicial interpretations in relation to article 303 of its criminal law, which already stated: “Whoever, for the purpose of reaping profits, assembles a crowd to engage in gambling, opens a gambling house or makes an occupation of gambling is to be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention or control, in addition to a fine”.

The interpretation added: “Whoever, for the purpose of reaping profits, sets up gambling websites on the internet or acts as an online gambling agent will be regarded as ‘opening gambling houses’ and will be punished according to article 303 of the criminal law”.

Meanwhile, Bet365 has confirmed in a notice to its customers in Romania that it intends to temporarily withdraw from the country.

The company said it will not accept new registrations from players in the country and has also removed Romania from the list of countries in which potential customers can register.

Bet365 said: “We are currently reviewing our position in Romania and decided to stop accepting new clients living in Romania at the moment.

“(We) hope to have more information in the future. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Related article: Bet365 announces relocation to Gibraltar