Taiwan has closed a legal loophole and made gambling online and via other electronic means a criminal offense, increasing the maximum fine for gamblers to NT$50,000 ($1,800).
Taiwan’s legislature in December amended Article 266 of the Criminal Code so that gambling “in a public place or open to the public” applies to gambling activity on member-only websites and in other electronic forums.
The revision, which came into effect on January 14, adds a sub-article declaring that “telecommunications equipment, electronic communications, internet or other similar means” all fall under the definition of a public place.
The amendment was floated by the Ministry of Justice some two-and-a-half years ago in response to a Supreme Court decision in December 2018 that found private online and cellphone gambling fell outside the scope of the law’s antiquated “public gambling” criterion.
However, a proviso has been retained allowing such gambling for “temporary amusement” to be exempt from criminal prosecution, both in land-based and online gaming contexts.
This exemption will likely allow the ongoing operation of numerous Japanese-style gaming parlours throughout Taiwan that use tokens instead of cash for electronic gaming devices.
David Lee, a gaming law specialist and partner with Taipei-based firm Lin & Partners, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Friday that the amendment will have a definite impact on players in Taiwan, providing police and prosecutors with much greater clarity in enforcing the law.
However, Lee said the changes “might have little or no impact on offshore online gaming support service companies in Taiwan” as most of these serve companies geoblock Taiwanese players.
That would offer unusually good news to Taiwan’s high-tech gaming support sector, which has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including the prosecution of high-profile operator Wisbet and other operations around the nation that were suspected of being too directly involved in gambling transactions.
Lee added that the amendments may even comfort the government-licensed sports-betting segment.
“The new law will, to some extent, discourage people from betting on foreign websites,” he said.
“Due to the relatively low payout ratio — capped by law at 78 percent — it is considered difficult for the government-licensed betting operator to compete with those foreign betting websites."