Will gambling ever be legalized in China?

| July 26th, 2017

For an activity that has been carried out for many centuries in China – there are even theories that poker may have originated there – the country has some very restrictive laws against many kinds of gambling. This is in stark contrast to many other parts of the world where it’s considered to be a perfectly socially acceptable way to spend time, whether in a casino, at a horse racing meeting or even playing online.

However the Chinese authorities, to this day, permit only a few forms of gambling including a national lottery although a great deal of illegal gambling undoubtedly does go on.

The history of gambling in the country goes back nearly as long as the activity itself. For example as long ago as 960 AD Emperor Taizu of Song introduced the punishment for habitual gamblers to have their hands cut off.

Nearly a millennium later gambling started to re-establish itself in the country and, in an attempt to raise money for a country that had been badly hit by the costs of both the Opium and Sino-French Wars, the Qing Dynasty introduced a national lottery.

However before long rigged lotteries became commonplace and there were even riots caused by people protesting about their unfair nature. Province by province lotteries were banned in reaction to this.

But it was in 1949 when Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China that a blanket ban on gambling was established. In line with his socialist ideals Zedong regarded it as an unwelcome diversion for his people.

This ban stayed in force until his death in 1976 which, along with many other elements of life in China, this marked a growing liberalization including the re-introduction of the state lottery as well as state-backed sports betting and even terminal games. However many other forms including casino games, poker and mah-jong remain against the law even now.

Two exceptions to this are the colonies of Macau and Hong Kong. In fact gambling revenue is the former’s biggest single source of revenue, attracting tourists from around the world to this “Las Vegas of the East”. Similarly Hong Kong, now back under Chinese rule, still retains elements of its British past including casinos and some very well-known horse racing tracks.

There is a feeling that China’s resistance to all forms of gambling can’t last forever. For example the games that are available on sites like Wink Slots are popular throughout the world due to the fun and enjoyment they offer – although the Chinese government seem stuck to their roots, many are hoping for a change in the laws. There is a growing desire in the country to become more westernized and this could well be the impetus needed for the Chinese government to review its policy on gambling.

If this does come to pass it could give operators access to a potential new market of over a billion adults. With a figure like this it’s also highly likely that the world’s major gaming companies will be looking for any opportunities that arise to press their case for liberalisation.

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