Posted on: November 29, 2022, 08:09h. 

Last updated on: November 29, 2022, 02:20h.

The issue of social media influencers promoting gambling has grabbed headlines this year, and even sparked a ban on Twitch. But in Hong Kong, it can get you up to seven years in prison.

Bui Yee-lam
Bui Yee-lam has appeared in several movies produced for the domestic market and boasts more than 220K followers on Instagram. (Image: Imgur)

Between last Wednesday and Sunday, seven influencers were arrested in the Chinese special administrative region on suspicion of advertising offshore sites that accepted bets on World Cup matches, The South China Morning Post reports.

Among them is Hong Kong actress Bui Yee-lam, 28, also known as Chantale Belle or Chantale Chan. Bui has appeared in several romantic comedies produced for the domestic market, including “Delete My Love” and “To Love or Not to Love?,” as well as various TV and internet shows. She has more than 220K followers on Instagram.

The other six, all women, included a beautician, while the others were unemployed, according to the SCMP. The suspects, who are unknown to one another, have been released on bail, pending further investigation.

Bad Influence

Like Macau, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China under the “one nation, two systems” principle, maintaining separate governing and economic systems from mainland China.

The limited gambling that exists in the SAR, on horse races, football matches, and lotteries is controlled by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Placing bets with private bookmakers is illegal, as is the promotion of such operations.

We believe that because of their online influence, criminals offered monetary rewards to lure them into promoting illegal gambling websites and attracting [customers] through their social media platforms,” said Chief Inspector Chan Ka-ying of the New Territories South regional crime unit.

Police were working to establish whether the women had all been approached by the same operation to the place ads.

In addition to prison time, the influencers could face fines of up to HK$5 million (US$640,000) under the Gambling Ordinance.

In February, police arrested So Mei-yan, also known as Cry So or So Miu-Miu, for streaming her online gambling activities to her thousands of followers. Gambling in an illegal establishment carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a HK$30K fine.

Twitch Crackdown

Closer to home, in October, live-streaming platform Twitch banned the promotion of gambling sites that aren’t licensed in the US or in other jurisdictions that provide “sufficient consumer protections.” The move came amid concerns about Twitch influencers promoting unlicensed operators to their largely underage followers.

According to a recent WIRED investigation, top gambling streamer Adin Ross received between $1.4 million and $1.6 million a month to stream gameplay from the unlicensed crypto site Duelbits.