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United Nations Report Increase in Illegal Gaming Activity in Southeast Asia

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Following research by the United Nations (UN), it has been revealed that the online gambling industry in Southeast Asia is being used by a criminal network to move money and launder money throughout the jurisdiction.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collaborated with gambling regulation authorities in different jurisdictions in Southeast Asia to uncover criminality in the region and estimates this criminal enterprise is worth billions of dollars.

Gambling in the region has surged recently and about six years ago, there was a clampdown on illegal gambling activities in China. The UNODC states that this has led to a move in illegal gambling activities to the lower Mekong River countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. This has allowed illegal money laundering to take place in these countries among the tens of thousands of legitimate transactions.

Casinos have long played a role in money laundering in Southeast Asia, but the surge of online gambling has accelerated this in ways that weren’t expected, High volumes of large, anonymous transactions, very limited regulation and compliance standards, and the transboundary nature of services make the online gambling sector really attractive for people wanting to hide transactions.

Benedikt HofmannDeputy Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific to the UNODC

Easy to Setup White Label Gambling Websites

There are many digital tools that make it quite straightforward to facilitate money laundering and illegal transactions in the region. One of these highlighted by the UNODC is White Labelling. This allows criminals with very little technical know-how to set up a gambling website and then carry out illegal activity.

Sometimes, this can be as simple as someone depositing money into a casino in one country and another person withdrawing this money in another region.

The UNODC has also highlighted the rise of cryptocurrency as another vehicle for criminals to launder money through online casinos and gambling websites.

Countries Must Unite to Combat Money Laundering

The UN believes it is because there are different rules in the countries in the region that make it easier for criminals to circumvent the guidelines in these jurisdictions.

The UNODC is trying to bring countries in the region together to combat criminality in the region and has held a workshop with gambling legislators in these countries to fight illegal operations on online gambling platforms. The organization says if the countries in the region can cooperate with each other, they can make a concerted effort to tighten up on the legislation and reduce illegal gambling activities throughout Southeast Asia.

That’s why comprehensive regional responses are so important — individual countries' efforts just bring the issue back through the back door.

Benedikt HofmannDeputy Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific to the UNODC

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