China has a new casino: the Philippines

Chinese workers on break outside an office building in Pasay City, Philippines. By some estimates, at least 100,000 people from mainland China have moved to Manila for jobs as gambling company marketing agents, tech support specialists and engineers. (Eloisa Lopez / For The Times)

By David Pierson and Alison Su/latimes.com – Gambling is illegal in China, but that didn’t prevent Fan Zheng from betting tens of thousands of dollars online.

The 30-year-old store clerk from the island province of Hainan learned about the opportunity early last year from marketing agents who, Fan believes, contacted him because he played no-stakes online card games.

“They knew I was a potential gambler,” he said.

At first, the agents persuaded him to bet on card games. That added thrill and a chance of making money to something he was already doing for fun.

But the card games were slow, and Fan kept losing. The agents suggested that he try a game called Tencent Every-Minute-Lottery, which generates winning numbers based on the total users logged into a Chinese messaging app. As the name suggests, there is a new chance to win every minute.

Soon he was hooked. Sometimes he bet $1.50. Other times, he bet $10,000.

“The more I played, the bigger amounts I’d bet,” he said.

Operating safely out of reach of Chinese authorities, the lottery website and its agents are based hundreds of miles away in the Philippines.

The Southeast Asian nation is being transformed by a massive surge in online gambling companies catering to players in China, where rising incomes have given more people the means to wager.

FULL STORY

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