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Gambling Laws in China

For decades, most forms of gambling have been officially illegal under Chinese law.

However, despite the general prohibition on gambling, some “games of luck” are permitted in China. Activities that are conducted for amusement and not for profit – for example, playing chess or poker games in the park for pure entertainment purposes – are not considered gambling.

The Chinese government does not consider the lottery a form of gambling, either. Therefore, the only types of legal gambling in China are the two state-run lotteries.

The welfare lottery which offers the chance to win prizes while supporting good causes, and the sports lottery which helps promote sporting activities. The sports lottery ticket sales climbed to $16.5 billion in the first quarter of 2018, making China the second-largest lottery market in the world, after the US.

Other forms of gambling, such as casino games, mah-jong, and sports betting with unauthorized channels, are illegal. (Yes, although it is one of China’s oldest and most favorite games, mah-jong gambling is not legally allowed.)

Lottery Gambling In China

The welfare lottery and the sports lottery are the only forms of legal gambling in China. Both are authorized by the Chinese government. Any other type of lottery is considered illegal in China.

While the Ministry of Finance is responsible for administering, regulating, and supervising the national lottery industry, the State Council is the highest authority in China to grant the license to issue the two types of lottery.

The first issuance of the welfare lottery tickets dates back to 1987, and the first issuance of the sports lottery tickets was in 1994.

Sports Betting in China

China’s sports lottery is celebrating its 24th anniversary this year. The sports lottery allows legal betting on all sporting events; by far, the most popular is betting on soccer.

In China, you can bet on any football league in the world except for Chinese leagues due to perceived match-fixing and corruption.

This may explain why China has been a nation of football fans, and particularly in recent years, the culture of watching football (and betting on it) has been spreading like wildfire in China. There have also been rumors that the government is currently considering opening up the domestic football lottery sector.

In the beginning, sports lottery tickets were sold at exclusive outlets across Chinese cities. However, the number of outlets had always limited the volume of potential ticket sales. Therefore, China’s sports lottery entered the online world in 2010 to expand access.

The new online rules allow licensed sports lottery vendors to partner with website providers to sell online lottery tickets. Such websites must be approved by government regulators and are subject to strict regulation. Due to the tight regulation, there is still a limited number of licensed sports lottery websites in China.

Other than the government-authorized sports lottery, any other form of sports betting is illegal.

Who Regulates Gambling in China?

Here’s an overview of the different gambling related regulatory authorities in China and their responsibilities.

Regulatory AuthorityRole
State CouncilGranting the authority and license of the two types of lottery
Ministry of FinanceRegulation and supervision of the entire lottery industry
Ministry of Civil AffairsRegulation of the welfare lottery
General Administration of SportRegulation of the sports lottery
China Welfare lottery Issuance and Administration CentreAdministration of the welfare lottery
China Sports lottery Administration CentreAdministration of the sports lottery

China Gambling Laws and How They Affect You

The law that makes unauthorized forms of gambling a crime in China is Article 303 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China (2006 Revision). This law states the following.

“Whoever, for the purpose of making profits, gathers people to engage in gambling or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall, in addition, be fined.”

So the law prohibits both professional and casual gambling, and there are several accounts of casual gamblers being arrested. Though the law allows criminal detention, the usual punishment is a simple fine.

The same law also includes the following, which shows that the potential punishments for running a gambling house are more severe.

“Whoever runs a gambling house shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall, in addition, be fined; and if the circumstances are serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years and shall, in addition, be fined.”

Is Online Gambling Legal in China?

The same rules that regulate traditional gambling regulate online gambling as well – so no, online gambling is not legal in China.

Operating online gambling sites and providing gambling services in China are both illegal. In fact, in recent years, China’s war on online gambling has continued to ramp up, with the authorities keen on sending an unmistakable message.

In 2018, for example, ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, the state-run press agency reported that police across provinces of China had arrested hundreds of individuals for suspected involvement in using and operating online gambling platforms.

What about betting on foreign sites from China? The problem is, foreign gambling websites are regularly blocked by internet service providers, and you are not allowed to access gambling sites from China, or you may be arrested for doing so. It is also illegal to send funds to these sites or receive funds from them in China.

If you still want to gamble, one option is to use digital wallets, cryptocurrency, and other alternative methods of paying for your games, because any transactions to and from online gambling sites are blocked by traditional financial institutions.

China is a huge market. Just looking at the number of Chinese gamblers filling casinos across the world, you can imagine the amount of gambling revenue that would be generated by the country’s gamblers.

As such, many online operators welcome Chinese players and put in much effort to make them feel welcome.

At the end of the day, we all want a safe and secure environment to play online, especially in today’s online world with concerns about cybercrime and fears of involvement in illegal activities.

Reading gambling site reviews may help you alleviate the concerns and find the right site to give you that buzz of winning.

Like any other reviews, gambling site reviews are a great way to find out all the key information of any operation without you having to do all the research yourself. You can find information such as what software they use, what banking methods are available, the selection of games, the range of betting options, how good the customer support is, as well as some other interesting facts.

Hong Kong Gambling Laws

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. Therefore, while some aspects of mainland Chinese law apply in Hong Kong, the Law of Hong Kong is based on English common law.

Certain forms of gambling are legal and have been regulated since 1977. The majority of the legal betting in Hong Kong is organized by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which was named as the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club in the British colonial days.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club also controls horse racing, which is one of the few forms of legal gambling in Hong Kong. The city hosts more than 700 races a year, generating more revenue from the sport per race than anywhere else in the world.

Please see the following page for more information.

Macau Gambling Laws

Like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region of China. Gambling and casinos are legal and have been so since the 1850s when it was a colony of Portugal. In fact, Macau is the only territory in China where casino gambling is currently legalized. Today, gambling in Macau primarily takes place in Western-style casinos where you can enjoy casino games, greyhound racing, sports betting, and lotteries.

In 2007, Macau overtook Las Vegas in gaming revenues and surpassed Las Vegas as the most prominent gaming city in the world.

As of 2016, there were 38 casinos in Macau. The popular games include roulette, blackjack, baccarat, Sic Bo, Fan Tan, keno, poker, online slots, and live games.

According to statistics, the gross gaming revenue of Las Vegas in 2017 was $7.09 billion, while that of Macau was $33 billion.

Don’t forget that Las Vegas is approximately 352 sq. km, while Macau is more than ten times smaller, about 30.5 sq. km. This makes Macau the official capital of global gambling today.

You can read more on the following page.

Recent and Future Initiatives

Poker has been increasingly popular in Asia, especially in China. However, in June 2018, the Chinese government announced a crackdown on social poker games in the country.

All apps offering poker in any form were banned in China. Google Play, the Apple App Store, the WeChat App Store, and other app stores had to remove all the apps related to poker; companies that feature such apps in any app store were also required to remove them entirely.

Any general promotions of poker on social media channels, including WeChat and Weibo, were also banned.

Hainan – China’s Pilot Zone for Sports Betting

Although sports betting is already permitted in Hong Kong, it is not legally allowed in the rest of China.  Hainan, an island province of China known for its tropical climate and beach resorts, was given special permission to pilot pari-mutuel sports betting.

The Chinese government also said earlier this year that it would encourage horse racing and expand sports lotteries in Hainan.

Hainan’s special status as a pilot zone for betting and lotteries means that if and when there is a shift in China’s approach towards gambling and casinos, they are most likely to appear on the island before anywhere else in the country.

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