China Underground > Entertainment > Will gambling ever be legalised in China?

Will gambling ever be legalised in China?

Last Updated on 2020/12/06

With the global gambling market estimated to grow six percent to hit a value of $635 billion by 2022, it’s pretty clear that casino, sports and game based betting are getting more popular.

Certain countries have legalised gambling, with huge markets providing jobs, tax income and benefits to local economies. For example, the US gaming industry is worth $240 billion, despite the majority of gambling only taking place at a select few locations across the nation, such as Las Vegas and more recently, Detroit. The effect that the gaming industry has on the US will surely have others looking on in envy.

The UK has embraced gambling, particularly online. The online gambling industry has hit new levels of popularity, and increased numbers of gamers are taking up the option to play at home, on their travels or in their spare time.

The best online casinos, such as 888casino, provide players with an experience similar to what could be expected in a land-based casino, the live professional dealers are charming and friendly, the immersive roulette feature lets you view the ball landing into the pocket in a slow motion effect, the Blackjack and other card games are being served via real card shoe decks, you might check it out and experience the superb live casino games for yourself while using the 888casino welcome bonus offer.

Figures behind the US gaming industry
Figures behind the US gaming industry

One of the names on the list of countries where gambling is outlawed is China. The nation with a population of almost 1.5 billion people has a couple of exceptions that take shape of state-run lotteries, but everything from card games to sports betting is completely illegal. This blanket ban came into effect in 1949 when the Communist government took control, forcing changes across various Chinese ways of life that included gambling on ancient games like Mah-Jong.

Mah Jong is still played
Mah Jong is still played, although it doesn’t look like any money is riding on this game.

Huge illegal gambling industry

This hasn’t stopped a large underground gambling industry from emerging, however, as is the case in many countries where gambling and wagering are against the law, organised crime becomes involved, controlling markets and running street bookmakers who manage individual bets.

The Daily Telegraph ran a story in 2010 that alluded to upwards of $900 million being wagered illegally each year, mostly by the emerging middle class who were at the time beginning to experience disposable incomes for the first time and looking for new ways to spend their money.

Fast forward to 2017 and China is at another crossroads, both culturally and politically. The population is richer, leaving Communist ideals well behind and starting to crave cars, clothes, houses and increasingly exciting lifestyles. The middle class has truly exploded and more Chinese people are earning more than ever before, with the average wage in certain areas and cities close to European figures.

Online gambling is another outlet for illegal gambling in China. While poker and other casino games and totally illegal, online or offline, sports betting and lotteries are very popular.

Legal workarounds

Aside from the illegal gambling outlets and lotteries, there are still gambling outlets that Chinese people can access without leaving the mainland. On the Southern coast, the autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau are becoming gambling hubs, continuing the European governmental systems and freedoms thanks to years of rule by the British and Portuguese respectively.

Hong Kong is the horse racing capital of the Far East, with Chinese racing fans flocking to the cities tracks in droves to have a flutter without breaking the law. Meetings attract upwards of $17 million in bets per race, more than any other single event in the world.

There is a huge demand for horse racing in Hong Kong

Macau on the other hand is the casino capital. Gambling has been legal here since the 1850s and the scene truly exploded when the state run monopoly ended in the 2000s. Visitors will find casinos like the MGM Grand and $2.1 billion dollar Venetian (almost carbon copies from Las Vegas) on the Cotai Strip, packed of course with mainland Chinese gamblers and Hong Kongers looking to win some money.

What does the future hold?

Macau by night
Macau by night

The Chinese government strictly enforces the gambling ban, with regular arrests still common, but the stance is beginning to change slightly. The island of Hainan is one viable option, with local representatives eager to match the successes of offshore hubs like Hong Kong and Macau, and the national State Council even approved Hainan as a test bed for legalised gambling.

The big question however is whether online gambling will be included as part of these first tentative steps, with online gambling providers poised to enter a potentially gigantic new market. 888 casino, famous for their exceptional virtual table games, live casino games and on the go mobile gaming are already expanding in the USA as gambling laws begin to slowly change, and they will certainly be ready to invest in Asia is the status quo changes in China.

Although it may be some time before we see a fully-fledged legal gambling industry in China, the truth is that the majority of the population is served in Hong Kong and Macau, with upwards of 17 million visitors going to Macau to gamble. Travelling there may take a while, but it’s certainly better than having to fly somewhere like Las Vegas to enjoy some gaming.


Gambling has been outlawed in China since 1949, but with an increasingly prosperous middle class, demand appears to be growing for laws to be more relaxed. While the Communist Government is holding firm for now, business is booming in the gambling resorts in autonomous Macau and Hong Kong – and illegal gambling industry is allegedly worth around $900 million.


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