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Under the influencer

The Guardian introduced us to a new study from Australia this week, which showed that children as young as 12 may be encouraged to gamble by celebrities and influencers promoting betting brands online.

The study was funded by the Australian Research Council and directly surveyed children to better understand their views on the rapidly growing world of online gambling influencers.

Many of the children surveyed noted that influencers often have young, impressionable audiences who could easily be drawn in by the promise of a luxury lifestyle, apparently funded by gambling winnings.

“They’re acting like they’re just gambling, but they’re getting paid. It’s all set up for them. It’s not at all like what real gambling is like, so it’s kind of like tricking you into wanting to do it,” said one 16-year-old girl in response to the survey.

Other children and teenagers quoted in the article suggested it was irresponsible for influencers to partner with gambling brands, given that they have limited knowledge and control of who their audience is – with young people often among the ranks of their followers.

According to one of the study authors, Professor Samanthat Thomas, Australia’s government should take the concerns of the quoted children seriously in order to prevent the next generation suffering gambling-related harms.

“It was disheartening to hear young people say they were sceptical about government action because of the gambling industry’s political influence,” she said.

And with children as young as 12-years-old saying things like: “If my idol, my favourite YouTuber, Instagrammer, TikToker is gambling maybe I should give it a try,” it’s easy to see why many believe this phenomenon is a significant cause for concern.

With quotes like the above coming from survey respondents so young, it seems Australia’s gambling regulators, like others around the rest of the world, should be listening intently and thinking about how to make the protection of children their number one priority.

Look North

Technology news website The Register this week brought us a surprising story from perhaps the world’s most mysterious country, North Korea.

According to the article, the latest money-making scheme being peddled by government-backed criminals in the country is the renting out of “malware-laden gambling websites as-a-service”.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), which has been investigating the phenomenon, suggested that for around $5,000 per month, one can rent a ready-built gambling operation built in North Korea and laden with malware ready to steal the personal and banking data of any customers who use it.

Reports allege that the operation is being driven by North Korea’s secretive “Office 39”, believed to be one of the country’s money-making machines helping to provide foreign currency to its government through a combination of legal and illegal activities.

Details of Chinese nationals are gathered through the malicious websites, while the North Korean operatives behind them pose as Chinese IT workers to get around UN sanctions prohibiting companies from working with North Korean workers.

South Korea’s NIS said whoever runs the scam has made billions of dollars in profit from it.

For players in China’s black market, scams like these represent another compelling reason to introduce a regulatory framework for online gambling.

Whether the revelation is taken seriously enough to bring about actual change, however, remains to be seen.

Chau’s house of cards keeps falling

Two businesses associated with now-jailed junket operator Alvin Chau are at risk of being delisted in Hong Kong, according to an article in Bloomberg.

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission has halted the trading of shares in LET Group Holdings and Summit Ascent Holdings, two firms linked to Chau, because of concerns about a $116m sale of assets which took place in Russia.

According to Bloomberg, the two companies did not comply with rules requiring shareholder approval for the deal.

The securities regulator asked both companies to address its concerns earlier this week, it said, but has received no response.

According to a report in industry publication GGRAsia, the asset that was sold is thought to be the gaming licence holder of the Tigre de Cristal casino in eastern Russia.

The warning leaves the two businesses in limbo after what has already been a tumultuous period.

After a raft of executive resignations at Summit Ascent, the business has currently been left with just one board member, chief executive Andrew Lo.

Elsewhere at LET, which holds a nearly 70% stake in Summit Ascent, things don’t look much better, as the aforementioned sale allegedly leaves both businesses without sufficient assets to warrant their continued listing in Hong Kong, according to the regulator.

While the companies may have made some quick cash through their latest asset sale, it seems they are now just two more examples of collateral damage as the house of cards of Alvin Chau’s business empire continues to crumble.

And given that there are 17 years left on the disgraced junket operator’s jail sentence, it seems unlikely there will be much Chau can do about it.

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