Advertising for China's state-run Welfare Lottery outside a convenience store in Shanghai.

Gambling in China is illegal under Chinese law[1] and has been officially outlawed since the Communist Party took power in 1949.[2] Any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is considered illegal.[3] In practice however, Chinese citizens participate in state-run lotteries, regularly travel to legal gambling centers overseas or in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau and access gaming through offshore based proxy betting and online gambling companies.

Mainland China

The Criminal Code of Republican China has prohibited both public gambling and the provision of venues for gamblers to assemble (e.g., casinos) since 1935.[4] Under the law, gamblers are allowed to play cards for non-currency items like matchsticks and citizens can play games like mahjong at Chinese New Year under "temporary amusement" clauses.[4]

The Chinese Communist government operates two lotteries: the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery set up in 1987 and 1994 respectively. The Chinese government does not legally consider the lotteries a form of gambling.[5] Illegal gambling in China remains common, including unofficial lotteries, clandestine casinos, and betting in games such as mahjong and various card games. In 2010, The Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that an estimated one trillion yuan are wagered in illegal gambling every year in China. Problem gambling exists in the country, and may be more prevalent than in countries with legalized gambling.[1] Online gambling is another outlet for illegal gambling in the country.[5]

Various attempts have been made to establish legal casinos in mainland China, although these have been unsuccessful.

In June 2018, the Chinese Government banned all online poker applications. App stores had to remove all poker related applications, and the promotion of poker in general via all social media channels in China (Wechat, Weibo) became forbidden.[6]

Hong Kong

Main article: Gambling in Hong Kong

While some aspects of mainland Chinese law apply in Hong Kong, certain forms of gambling are legal and regulated in Hong Kong. The Law of Hong Kong is based on English common law, having been a British territory until 1997. Gambling in Hong Kong has been regulated since 1977.[7] The Hong Kong Jockey Club organizes much of the legal betting in the region.


Main article: Gambling in Macau

Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.[8]: 5 

Gambling in Macau has been legal since the 1850s, when it was a Portuguese colony. The region has a history of gambling on traditional Chinese games. Gambling in Macau now primarily takes place in Western-style casinos; in 2007, Macau overtook the Las Vegas Strip in gaming revenues. As of 2016,[9] 38 casinos operate in Macau, and the region's annual gambling revenues exceed US$27.9 billion.[10]

Offshore gambling

Legal restrictions on onshore gambling in Mainland China have contributed to the growth of overseas and online gambling sites that cater to Chinese nationals. Integrated gaming resorts in Singapore, Australia, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines welcome growing numbers of Chinese tourists. Mongolia, which is neighbour to China, is also looking into legalizing gambling and casino for Chinese tourists.[11]

Proxy betting

As in person visits to offshore gambling venues can be both time consuming and attract the attention of law enforcement, proxy betting has grown in popularity, especially for VIP clients wishing to discretely place high stakes bets. In proxy betting, clients communicate with staffers wearing headsets at baccarat tables in offshore casinos. Proxy betting was outlawed in Macau in 2016 and has never been permitted in Australia or Singapore casinos, but now accounts for 40 percent of the $1 billion VIP gaming market in the Philippines, according to brokerage CICC.[12]

Online gambling

Online gambling in Mainland China remains illegal, however internet traffic routed via VPNs, underground banking networks and payment platforms enable Mainland Chinese customers to access and remit funds to online gaming sites. According to 2019 estimates published in Economic Information Daily, an affiliate of state-owned news agency Xinhua, the annual amount bet through online gambling in the Mainland is more than one trillion yuan (US$145 billion), equivalent to nearly twice the annual income of China’s officially sanctioned lotteries.[13]

In the Philippines alone, where Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) can register and legally operate, over a three-year period from 2016 at least 100,000 Chinese nationals were estimated to have moved to Manila to work for online gambling operators as marketing agents, tech support specialists and IT engineers to serve Mandarin-speaking clientele.[14] To side step restrictions on direct marketing of online gambling in Mainland Chinese print or social media, many online gaming sites seeking to attract Chinese customers have become shirt sponsors for English Premier League football teams. Dafabet’s sponsorship of Fulham FC and W88’s sponsorship of Wolverhampton Wanderers are just two examples of this trend.

In October 2014, The Guardian newspaper reported that one major online site, Bet365 had been taking bets from Chinese citizens by using obscure domain names in order to avoid government web censorship.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Eimer, David (9 January 2010). "China's secret gambling problem". Daily Telegraph. Shenyang. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Rien ne va plus". The Economist. 432 (9158): 25. 31 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Remarks by Chinese Embassy Spokesperson on Issues of Chinese Citizens concerning Gambling in the Philippines". Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of the Philippines. 8 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b Facing up to a gambling problem by Jules Quartly (Taipei Times, 9 March 2003)
  5. ^ a b Kalenyuk, Mary (7 November 2013). "The bets are on for gambling in China". The World of Chinese. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Crackdown on online poker applications in China - Somuchpoker". Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  7. ^ Deans, Rob (2001). "Online Gambling: Changes to Hong Kong's Gambling Legislation". Gaming Law Review. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 5 (6): 555–560. doi:10.1089/109218801753336166.
  8. ^ Simpson, Tim (2023). Betting on Macau: Casino Capitalism and China's Consumer Revolution. Globalization and community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-1-5179-0031-1.
  9. ^ 2016 Wynn 10-K
  10. ^ "Macau Gaming Summary". University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  11. ^ Adiya, Amar (2023-01-04). "Mongolia Takes a Gamble on Legalizing Casino to Bring in Tourists and Boost Economy". Mongolia Weekly. Retrieved 2023-03-25.
  12. ^ "China targets PH in offshore gambling crackdown". Manila Bulletin. Bloomberg. 8 August 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  13. ^ Master, Farah (9 July 2019). "Chinese state media target Macau's Suncity in online gambling report". Reuters. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  14. ^ Dancel, Raul (20 July 2019). "Loan Sharks Feed Off Philippine Casino Boom". The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Revealed: how Bet365 profits from Chinese punters who risk jail for gambling online". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 31 May 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.