Planet China

The house always wins

Anyone who has watched enough 1930s gangster movies will be familiar with scenes from illegal casinos in which the roulette tables are rigged. Fast forward to modern day Shanxi province and this type of thing is pretty typical too, it seems. Earlier this month police raided a gaming den in the city of Jincheng, arresting 17 people and seizing 34 slot machines. Housed in someone’s home, the police soon found that the machines were not just illegal but unethical too – the operator had a remote control that ensured there were no big wins. The authorities say that anyone operating more than 10 gambling machines is deemed to be running a casino, a crime punishable by 10 years in jail.

Over in Macau, the only part of China where gambling is legal, there has also been controversy over slot machines. The South China Morning Post reports that 133 gamblers have been refused winnings which the casinos say resulted from “mechanical errors”. One punter told Macau’s legislative assembly that he’d spent HK$4 million (about $500,000) on the slot machines but that casino bosses had blocked a a payout of HK$20 million of winnings. He complained that after negotiations they were only willing to compensate him for 10% of the jackpot, and wouldn’t refund his stake money either. “These casinos are cheating me,” the man fulminated. A Macau legislator said that the gambler makes a fair point in asking how he could know if a machine was technically reliable before playing it. “This is damaging to Macau’s reputation,” the legislator added.

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