Baidu Being Investigated For Allowing Illegal Gambling Advertisements
Baidu Inc, the Chinese online search giant is under investigation by the country’s internet regulator after a local media report revealed that the site was displaying advertisements for illegal online gambling operations. The report said that the certain employees of the companies were indulging in the practice for monetary gains.
The advertisements used names of well-known land-based casinos such as Macau Grand Lisboa and Galaxy to lure visitors.They were placed as commercial messages on top of the search results in Baidu. The local media report said its findings were based on a two month-long investigation. It reported that online gambling sites used advertising agencies as a front to register corporate accounts with Baidu and pose as real companies.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, which is the country’s internet regulator issued a statement stating that it has asked its Beijing branch to investigate the complaint and would release the findings when available. It also said that sites like Baidu should not act as a platform for the promotion of illegal gambling services. Macau is the only territory in China where gambling is legal. In the rest of the country, legal gambling is restricted to a government-run welfare lottery as well as a sports lottery.
According to the media report, the advertisements with links to gaming sites would be shown only after 10 pm and would be removed by 9am the next morning. The report has also alleged that Baidu’s marketing service agents who were responsible for opening these accounts did little to verify the identity of these clients.
The search firm Baidu has reportedly filed a case with the police and is working with the authorities to obtain the necessary evidence. Releasing a statement on the issue, the company denied that it had been working with gambling operators and said that the links were appearing on the search pages unknowingly.
Baidu also highlighted in its statement that it had so far blocked over 8,000 illegal gambling sites this year alone and prohibited the appearance of more than 7,000 gambling keywords.
The three Macau casino operators whose names were being misused in the advertisements were SJM Holdings Ltd, Sands China Ltd and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. So far only SJM Holdings has responded to these allegations.
In a statement, SJM Holdings said,
Like other casino operators, we are aware that there are some unauthorized organizations and persons fraudulently using the names of licensed casinos. We have a prominent warning on our website to this effect.
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