Gambling is illegal in China except in state-sanctioned lotteries. Photo: AFP

Nearly US$60 billion passed through China’s biggest online casino before it was broken up by authorities, a court has heard.

According, to the official Xinhua news agency, prosecutors said the illegal gambling operation was set up by a man surnamed Zhou in 2012 and that he moved it to Vietnam the following year to try to avoid detection by police.

Players on the site, , exchanged real money into game coins to participate in dozens of gambling games from mahjong to poker, the Legal Daily newspaper reported last year.

Xinhua reports that, according to investigators, more than two million people signed up and bought 400 billion yuan ($58 billion) in games99.net game coins. The operators made profits of 580 million yuan.

Zhou, 47, was arrested in Vietnam and repatriated. He went on trial on Thursday in Songyang, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, charged with setting up the online casino.

Eight of Zhou’s accomplices were sentenced in an earlier case and several are still at large, Xinhua said.

Gambling is illegal in mainland China, except in state-sanctioned lotteries.

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