Chinese online gambling syndicate to the clink

A Shanghai court sentenced leaders of the city's largest reported Internet gambling syndicate to jail terms and six-figure fines for the running the $646 million black market operation.

One of the men, ringleader Ren Bin, received a seven-year sentence and $775,000 fine for setting up gambling Web sites through foreign accounts from which he collected the money, China's the People's Daily is reporting.

Five others were also sentenced, with one man getting up to four and a half years in prison and fines as high as $260,000 - still only a fraction of the alleged $678 million the group made in gambling revenue.

Gambling has been illegal in China since the rise of its communist government in 1949. Though the country allows state-licensed lotteries, black market gambling has cut into government revenues.

Despite government efforts to come down on black market betting rings, Chinese bet an estimated $775 million overseas. The total eclipsed that of the country's tourism in 2005, the state reported.

This is the second major crackdown on illegal Internet gambling syndicates in the country since last July, when police in China's Sichuan province busted a billion-yuan operation with thousands of registered users.

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