World Cup fever is hitting its peak as the final match between Croatia and France approaches on 15 July 2018, and one symptom of that fever is excessive gambling. The Guangdong Provincial Public Security Bureau in China launched a crackdown on illegal World Cup gambling, and has seized CNY 10 million (USD 1.5 million) of cryptocurrency in addition to CNY 260 million (USD 39 million) of cash.
This was a tremendous police operation, resulting in 540 arrests, the destruction of 20 gangs, the shutdown of 70 gambling apps and websites, and the termination of 250 chat rooms on social media platforms. The gambling organizations used a combination of the darknet and cryptocurrency to maintain anonymity and avoid authorities, and were in operation for eight months and collectively had 330,000 users. They advertised that they accepted internationally recognized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. In total, these gambling platforms facilitated CNY 10 billion (USD 1.5 billion) of bets, not all of which were for the World Cup, but the World Cup was the impetus for the investigation and crackdown.
Apparently, these gambling websites used a pyramid scheme that was conducive for the recruitment of agents and gamblers. Authorities found that most people who used these platforms were losing due to the odds, resulting in steady profits for the dealers. Chines authorities say this is detrimental to society since gamblers were losing all of their money, causing them to turn to illegal activities like theft to get more money to gamble.
World Cup gambling is a major industry at this time, with bookmakers on track to profit USD 36.4 billion this year. Most of this gambling is legal and most bets are placed with fiat. Cryptocurrency is used for some of the World Cup gambling, often legally, but cryptocurrency is ideal for illegal gambling operations due to its relatively anonymous nature when compared to centralized payment methods that usually require identification information to complete transactions.
With cryptocurrency transactions, the only information required is a cryptocurrency address which is a long string of letters and numbers, and no specific identification information is necessary. However, there are organizations which use forensics to trace cryptocurrency addresses and assign identities to them, and perhaps Chinese police used that technology in this crackdown.
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