The Chinese application TikTok, which is currently owned by the technology giant ByteDance, seems to be used by a group of people to engage in gambling on the territory of Nepal. Reportedly, the group is operating hubs offering live gambling services on the short-form video hosting platform.
According to local police officials, most gamblers in the country use fake phone numbers and IDs, which makes it challenging for the police authorities to identify them. Still, the police forces have managed to arrest some people engaging in the aforementioned illegal activities.
Currently, online gambling is not allowed in Nepal. Earlier in January, a notice to local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block websites promoting online gambling, sports betting and virtual currency services was issued by Nepal Telecommunications Authority.
The Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office revealed that four people from various locations across the country, who have been involved in organizing illegal gambling via the TikTok platform live, were arrested in the period from January 10th to January 17th, 2023. As the police shared, the individuals were using digital wallets for the transactions that were estimated at more than NPR5 million.
Rishi Prakash Yogi, also known as Pugg and Pugb2 on TikTok, was arrested for conducting card games. According to police reports, the man played the game live with various players for more than 10 days, with the monetary transactions from the practice amounting to about NPR2.8 million. They were carried out through a digital wallet service called e-Sewa. Some of the illegal online gambling services on TikTok were organized by Kapil Giri, who collected approximately NPR1 million in 10 days.
Harischandra Malla and Prem Kathyat were also among the people arrested for organizing illegal online gambling services on the TikTok platform, with them collecting over NPR85,331 by using two e-Sewa accounts for about 14 days and around NPR93,214 in six days, respectively.
Lack of Clear and Explicit Online Gambling Laws in Nepal Makes Regulation Harder
As revealed by the competent authorities, it is not that difficult for people to now obtain new phone numbers, so they are able to change their numbers or stop using certain numbers after using them for participating in illegal activities, such as gambling. Another obstacle for the police forces has been the fact that there are no clear and well-defined laws addressing cybercrime in Nepal.
Krishna Prasad Koirala, who is the Police Superintendent, noted that the four arrests mentioned above were among the first instances of police catching gamblers on TikTok. He also explained that the fact there are no adequate cyber laws to punish such crimes and the individuals involved in them is an even more serious problem. Following the arrests, the police received a number of reports on the phone, claiming that similar activities were being carried out live on the TikTok platform.
As explained by the Superintendent of the Police, the scheme for offering illegal online gambling on TikTok is relatively simple. The persons who run the schemes first invite users as guests on the short-form video hosting service platform, collect their bets via various mobile wallet applications, and then the game itself is held live online.
According to some estimates provided by the mobile data platform Start.io, there are currently about 2.2 active users of TikTok on the territory of Nepal. However, some activists and digital rights organizations believe that the actual figure is way higher than the one provided by Start.io.
Santosh Sigdel, president of Digital Rights Nepal and an Internet freedom supporter, noted that many offenses that take place on the Internet are currently not clearly regulated in Nepal, and this is becoming a serious issue. He further explained that it was high time for the country’s Government to speed up the legislative process to enact information technology and cyber offense legislation in line with cyber laws around the world, along with some criminal justice and human rights principles.