Students and Gamblers in the Spotlight: While most lead tourism-related stories on broadcast or streaming news, as well as print news media accounts from China have pointed to a strong and still recovering Chinese domestic travel sector, there have been occasional “off-page-one” items that could have deeper significance in their level of importance for Chinese-American relationships.
First, there came the news last week by the U.S. government that it had revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese nationals under a Presidential proclamation issued earlier this year that denies entry to students and researchers deemed security risks—a move China called a violation of human rights.
The proclamation last May was ostensibly aimed at Chinese nationals suspected of having ties to the military. U.S. President Donald Trump said at that time that some students had stolen data and intellectual property. China has also accused the United States of racial discrimination. Could the U.S. action be a signal for rough times ahead for Chinese citizens seeking to visit the United States? Prior to the beginning of the coronavirus-driven global pandemic, rejections of visa applications had already been a top complaint of the travel trade in China.
There is also this: according to the latest annual “Open Doors” report from the from the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education, with data for the 2018-2019 school year, there were 369,548 students from China enrolled at U.S. universities. China accounts for a third (33.7 percent) of all international students in the U.S. The next report for the 2019-2020 school year, is due to be released in mid-November.
While their impact is not broadly felt across America, those U.S. destinations with concentrations of Chinese students—states such as Massachusetts, California, Illinois and others—consider the students, along with their parents and relatives who escort them to the USA or visit them during the school year, a lucrative market. The overwhelming majority of the Chinse students pay for their tuition and housing. Along with their relatives, they also comprise a profitable sub sector at upscale department stores and specialty shops.
And second, there is this (from the category of “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.”): The Chinese government has announced that it is going to publish a blacklist of foreign casinos that routinely target high rollers in the country, and ban its citizens from traveling to those destinations. The announcement came recently from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which said that, along with other government agencies, it has established a blacklist of casinos in overseas cities that market to Chinese tourists.
According to the authoritative gaming industry website, casino.org, nearly all forms of gambling are illegal in the People’s Republic of China—the exception being the state-run lottery. Commercial casinos are found only in Macau, an autonomous Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said “casinos in overseas cities attract Chinese tourists to go abroad for gambling activities, disrupting the order of China’s outbound tourism market, and endangering the personal and property safety of Chinese citizens.”
The Chinese government was silent on the issue of divulging which casinos and areas are on the blacklist. The ministry did say, however, that it would include casinos that allow proxy betting — the process of a gambler making bets on behalf of a person who is directing their play remotely via telephone or another device.
The government indicated that VIP junket groups, which coordinate travel from China to casino destinations for high rollers (and, apparently) lend them money to gamble with, are additionally being closely monitored by the central government.
Casino.org cited a brief note on the subject from DS Kin, Derek Choi and Jeremy An, analysts from JP Morgan: “At this stage, it’s difficult to know exactly how the government will clamp down and what it means by ‘blacklisting.’ But we suspect capital flows through underground banks and agents, as well as junkets’ promotion of these overseas markets, will be heavily scrutinized.”