Shanghai jails leaders of online betting ring

A court in Shanghai has given jail sentences to leaders of a five billion yuan ($646 million) online gambling ring, the city's largest on record, state media reported on Thursday.

China banned gambling after the Communists swept to power in 1949. State-sanctioned lotteries operate, but revenues are dwarfed by black market takings.

The court handed a seven-year sentence and a six million yuan fine to ringleader Ren Bin, who used foreign online gambling accounts to set up betting websites, and recruited staff to attract clients and collect takings, the People's Daily said.

Five others were given sentences of up to 4-½ years and fined one to two million yuan. The syndicate had amassed 5.25 billion yuan in betting revenue, the paper said.

Regular crackdowns on illegal betting rings in recent years have failed to quell China's gambling fervour. In 2005, Chinese bet some $600 billion yuan overseas -- equal to the annual revenue of the country's tourism industry, state media reported.

Last July, police in China's southwestern Sichuan province broke a billion-yuan online betting syndicate involving thousands of registered users across the country.

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