China to 'purify' cyber environment

"China" has spoken, and the word is not good for Internet gambling. China Daily, the National English-language newspaper, is reporting the country launched a three-month crackdown directed at online gaming on Sunday.

"The prevalence of online gaming has ruined the online environment," the paper reports the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Information Industry and the State Press and Publication Administration said in a joint statement, "and harmed young people's growth, which runs against the policy of building a harmonious society."

At the top of the agenda for the crackdown: online games that involve gambling and betting, with local government departments designated to "strictly supervise" online game service providers, and monitor all "virtual money" exchanges.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang are the main targets, the paper added, further noting police busted 347,000 gambling cases and retrieved 3.56 billion yuan last year alone.

The move follows a somewhat contradictory report published recently on the Chinese Web site People's Daily, in which Koy Xiaowei of China's Audiovisual and Internet Publication Department recognized the emerging online gaming market in China and noted the industry pulled in $843.5 million in 2006, a 73.5% increase over 2005.

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