To be honest, when we think of people who love gambling, we have a hard time getting rid of the prejudices. Because however, we look at it, the Chinese are generally known as avid gamblers. Some stories even say that gambling was invented in the ancient Chinese Empire. Even if we visit every random casino on earth, there is a good chance that there will be visitors with a Chinese appearance. However, one thing is very remarkable: gambling in China is prohibited. Or is there nothing to do in China at all? Well, yes. But then you have to make a detour. We tell you below what alternatives there are in our casino destination today: China.
We always like a bit of history, but in the case of China, we go back very far. Archaeological finds have shown that lotteries already existed in China as early as 2300 BC and 2000 years later the so-called Han dynasty came with a precursor to today’s Keno. The proceeds of this were used by the emperor to finance construction projects. The most famous example of this is the (completion) of the Great Wall of China.
The game Mahjong would be invented about 500 years before Christ. This was done by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, who probably could not have guessed that the game would be played all over the world in the 21st century. Historians also believe that playing cards originated in ancient China. In the ninth century, cards are said to have been in circulation, with characters each representing a certain value. These maps would again find their way to the west via traveling salesmen and reach the general public in the 14th century. Craftsmen, peasants, people of nobility; were all drawn to these particular cards.
Gambling law in China
Despite the historic role the vast country plays in gambling, communism would make gambling considered evil. This communist regime has ensured that games of chance were largely banned in China from 1949. Because, as we know, communism (just like religion, as we saw for example with the destination Senegal) and gambling don’t exactly go together.
There are, however, national lotteries that are organized by the state. The Chinese government does not legally consider lotteries a form of gambling and therefore also organizes lotteries, two pieces that are.
As you can somewhat expect, there is indeed massive gambling in China, illegally of course. There are unofficial lotteries, clandestine casinos, Mahjong, and other card games that are also illegally played. In 2010, The Daily Telegraph reported that an estimated one trillion yuan a year is gambled through illegal providers. Several attempts have been made to enable legal casinos (on the mainland) in China, but have not been successful.
Macau and Hong Kong
Or does that also mean that the gambling-crazy Chinese have nowhere to go? Not quite. In practice, they can go to the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, whose legal systems resemble those of European countries. For example, Hong Kong would be under British rule for a long time and Macau under Portuguese rule. In this way, an exception could be made for the legalization of games of chance.
- Hong Kong: The government of Hong Kong also restricts gambling to a few regulated organizations. Hong Kong does generate the largest horse racing betting turnover in the world. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, which was founded in 1884, has a monopoly on horse racing, lotteries, and football betting and is known as the largest taxpayer to the government.
- Macau: A lot of people think that Las Vegas is the casino capital of the world, and that makes sense. Yet Macau has been the largest gambling city in the world since 2006. Macau is 10 times smaller than Las Vegas, but revenues from casinos, slot machines, sports betting, and horse and dog racing are 4.5 times that of Vegas. The Chinese population can choose from no fewer than 38 casinos in Macau.
Most Chinese like to take risks. Of course, we see this over the centuries with all the migratory flows of Chinese who traveled around the globe to build a new existence. The average Chinese does not perceive uncertainty as an obstacle and therefore there is no reason to avoid risk. And we can only say that gambling involves quite a few risks. Chinese who love it. In addition, gambling is also very important culturally in China. Apart from the ban introduced by the communist government, gambling is not made difficult by the population itself. For example, there is no taboo on it. Gambling is somewhat seen as a cultural heritage in China. In addition, the Chinese are also collectivistic, meaning they like to be with other people. Gambling is one of the things you can do in a group and gambling in China creates a sense of togetherness, a collectivist feeling. Furthermore, we must not forget that gambling is also reflected in the superstitions of many Chinese. And speaking of superstitions: 6, 8, and 9 are known in China as lucky numbers, while 4, 5, and 7 bring bad luck.
So there are no legal casinos in China, at least not on the mainland. For a visit to a physical casino, one must therefore move to Macau. This casino destination can be reached by both ferry and plane. The fact that the 38 casinos of Macau have jointly ensured that the autonomous region has become the most important casino city in the world is of course also due to its geographical location. Because there are not many better locations to be found than a stone’s throw from China. After all, we are talking about a country with 1.4 billion people.
Online games of chance
What applies to offline games of chance, also applies to online gambling: it is prohibited, strictly prohibited even. The Chinese police even have several large-scale actions against online gambling, in which thousands of people have been arrested. Still, the Chinese state is not successful in fighting illegal online betting. However, it has been possible to a certain extent to block both foreign websites and payments, to put a stop to online gambling in China. Despite this, many sites do accept Chinese visitors.
The main casinos
For a visit to the casino, the Chinese will have to move to Macau, as the other alternative Hong Kong does not have official casinos.
- Macau: What is remarkable is how these casinos are divided. For example, Macau traditionally consisted of three islands connected by bridges and dams: the main island Macau, the middle island Taipa and the southern Coloane. Over the years, Taipa and Coloane have merged due to land reclamation. However, most casinos are located on the main island of Macau. In the center of this peninsula, you will find some big names from the casino world: the Grand Lisboa, the Wynn, and the Sands for example. Then we also have the Cotai Strip, which can be seen as Macau’s version of the Las Vegas Strip. Several casinos, such as The Venetian and Studio City Macau, can be found on this strip.