A trial reportedly involving 20 people with suspected connections to an illegal online gambling ring is underway in Kunming, the capital city of China's Yunan Province.
The gambling ring, according to a June 11 article in Kunming Daily, generated more than 8.6 billion Chinese yuan ($1.2 billion) and 200 million Chinese yuan in wagers and profits, respectively.
The article, which was later translated by GoKunming.com, said that the case centers on Tan Zhiwei and Tan Zhiman, brothers from Hong Kong who are suspected of establishing casinos in Myanmar in 1999.
The Myanmar casinos are thought to have served as a foundation for an online betting network.
The two brothers are accused of building a business with more than 3,000 employees, with servers in the cities of Guangzhou and Dongguan in Guangdong Province.
State prosecutors, the article said, argue that one of the brothers' gaming sites drew 5,198 registered users between August 2006 and March 2007.
All 20 defendants have been charged with the crimes of operating casinos and disrupting social order. The case is reportedly China's largest with regard to the amount of money, number of people and geographic area involved.
The case is being prosecuted at Kunming Intermediate People's Court.
Such a case comes as little surprise following the government's repeated sweeping initiatives to rein in illegal land-based and online betting.
In December 2005, Xinhua News Agency, a government-controlled press entity, revealed that between January and September of that year, 1.16 million people -- all suspected of illegal betting offenses -- were arrested while 2.3 billion Chinese yuan was seized.
In 2006, Chinese authorities investigated 347,000 gambling cases involving 1.1 million people, and seized 3.56 billion Chinese yuan.
Between February and April 2007, the government launched a crackdown targeting Internet gambling, which sought to "purify the cyber environment" in the Beijing and Shanghai municipalities, as well as the Guangdong and Zhejiang Provinces.
Various other enforcement measures -- including the launch of cyber police, avatars which monitor Web sites on Beijing servers -- have been taken.
It is thought that a recent decision by Macau's chief executive to cap the Special Administrative Region's number of casino licenses was made under pressure from Beijing.
is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.