It’s common to think that all forms of gambling are illegal in China, but you might be shocked to hear that some are actually tolerated by law. Regulation of gambling in China is generally consistent with the widespread belief that many aspects of life in the nation are strictly controlled, if not censored
So, where do Chinese laws stand on various forms of gambling? Find out in our in-depth review below.
Casino Games and Their Regulatory Status
Almost all forms of gambling are explicitly forbidden by Chinese law. This includes both gambling done online and gambling done abroad by Chinese nationals.
Some forms of what are often understood to be gambling are, nevertheless, legally legal in China. To further understand China’s stance on gambling, we’ll break down each type of gambling separately.
Casinos of any kind, including those that only exist online, are illegal in China. That goes for any website that allows you to play slot machines, table games, live dealer games, poker, bingo, keno, or wager on the results of the lottery.
The Chinese government takes strong measures to block domestic establishments and international ones from taking bets from Chinese citizens. Some people have even been taken into custody for their involvement in online gambling.
Although gambling is generally forbidden in China, Macau is an exception. Land-based casinos and gambling have been authorized in Macau’s special administrative zone since the 1850s. There are currently 38 casinos in Macau, making it the most lucrative gambling destination in the world, surpassing even Las Vegas.
Despite the fact that many offshore internet casinos accept players from Macau, online gambling in the territory is not licensed.
Poker for real money, whether played online or offline, is forbidden in China since it is considered a form of gambling. Many players get around this by signing up with untraceable offshore operators to play Bitcoin poker.
The game is illegal online but widely available in Macau’s many land-based casinos. Poker games are also available to Macau locals through offshore web casinos.
Bingo is not widely played in China. There are no official bingo rooms in the country, but social games of bingo appear to be tolerated because the authorities rarely intervene when they are held.
In China, playing bingo online is against the law, thus any offshore gambling sites that offer it are forbidden. Bingo sites that accept real money from Chinese players are also illegal.
Only lotto games, which the Chinese government does not consider to be gambling, are legal in China. Nonetheless, there are a few significant limitations to keep in mind. Only two lotteries in the country, the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery, both of which may be considered sports betting, offer actual cash prizes to winners. There may be no additional lotteries.
In China, playing online lotteries for real money is against the law. Tickets for China’s two state-run lotteries are the only ones that can be purchased online by Chinese citizens through government-approved sites.
Participatory Video Games
In China, you can legally play certain social games. If you want to play chess or poker with your friends, that’s fine as long as there’s no money on the line.
China outlawed poker app downloads in 2018. This meant that poker apps could no longer be promoted on Chinese versions of Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Poker app promotion on social media was also prohibited.
Despite its long history and widespread popularity, gambling of any kind on the Chinese cultural phenomenon that is mahjong is illegal. There are just a few occasions a year when you can play Mahjong for free.
Gambling Regulations in China
In China, one can legally wager on sporting events through the country’s sports lottery. Bets on the outcomes of a wide variety of international sports are accepted in China’s Sports Lottery, though football is by far the most popular. Match-fixing and corruption have been alleged to be so pervasive in Chinese football that betting on the sport is illegal.
The only authorized form of sports betting in China is the Sports Lottery. However, sports betting is not only acceptable but legal in Macau as of the year 1998. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is the only authorized betting outlet for horse races in Hong Kong.
Maximum Gambling Age Set at 21
In both mainland China and Hong Kong, adults over the age of 18 can legally participate in gambling activities. To gamble legally in Macau, you must be at least 21 years old.
The Chinese government collects an income tax of 20% on winnings from regulated gambling operations. Other sources of gambling revenue or wins are typically confiscated because they are considered illegal.
The Development of China’s Gambling Laws
Contrary to popular belief, China has a long history of gambling, with many of the most common forms of gambling used today having their roots in China. Around the period of the first dynasty, four thousand years ago, gambling began in China. Gambling was not officially declared prohibited until the Communist Party of China took control in 1949.
Due to its status as a British colony until 1997, many forms of gambling have been permitted in Hong Kong for a long time. Horse racing betting has been legal in Hong Kong since 1977, and other forms of gambling are heavily influenced by English law.
Many of the legislation of Macau’s special administrative zone were originally enacted in Portugal because the territory was once a Portuguese colony. For this reason, gaming in Macau has been sanctioned since the 1850s. Macau’s casino business is so prosperous that in 2007 it surpassed Las Vegas’s to become the world’s leading land-based casino gambling destination.
The most important thing to keep in mind about China’s regulations regarding online gambling is that, with very few exceptions, it is prohibited. Only the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery, both sponsored by the government, are considered legitimate gambling options in China.
The rules for gaming are a little different in China’s two SARs. Hong Kong allows horse racing, while Macau permits gambling in land-based casinos and sports betting.