Over the past several decades, China has burst onto the world stage as one of the great global superpowers. With its massive population and ever-growing spending power, the East Asian powerhouse is the top revenue-generating gambling market on Earth, despite widely restricting and prosecuting gaming activities, especially on the mainland.
Most forms of betting can only legally be played in special administrative regions like Macau or Hong Kong. In this guide, we’ll highlight the activities lawfully available in the different areas, and give you a background of gambling in China.
In 2012, 347,000 citizens were prosecuted for gambling-related offenses, nearly 6,000 of which were sentenced to “re-education through labor,” so you’ll want to pay close attention!
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While those “crime and punishment” figures may look intimidating, keep in mind that we’re talking about a nation of over 1.4-billion people. So, while it’s possible to be detained or fined for using unauthorized Chinese gambling sites, it’s still considered rare. Enforcement is mostly dependent on the police assigned to your immediate area.
Before we get too involved with the legalities of gambling in China, let’s discuss the recommended betting sites that are listed above. At LegitGamblingSites.com, we strive to provide readers from all over the world with the perfect online gaming experience; that starts with a top-notch website that you can trust. We’ll explain why the options listed above are the best next section.
What We Look for in a Chinese Gambling Site
Before we jump into the complicated world of Chinese gambling laws, let’s discuss website options. We pride ourselves on delivering the very best betting sites for readers, no matter which country they’re located in, forms of betting they enjoy, or qualities they demand from a gaming provider.
To accomplish this goal, we’ve hired a team of experts from all over the industry, tasked with vetting every Chinese gambling site that they come across and only recommending those that match all of our strict criteria. The following attributes are all required of any betting operator we suggest, though there are many others as well.
Safety and Legitimacy
These groups set up very real-looking gambling websites, have games to play, and accept deposits into betting accounts like everyone else; only they have no intention of ever paying any money back out.
Sometimes they’ll outright disappear overnight, leaving with everyone’s money, which is then impossible to track down. In other cases, they’ve just used bogus excuses and fraudulent practices to justify canceling people’s winning bets and/or locking their accounts.
Whatever the case, avoiding these situations for our readers is our highest priority. It’s a terrible feeling, getting scammed – one that we’d like to ensure never happens, especially when every victim unwittingly funds these awful groups.
Variety of Betting Options
We celebrate the online casinos and sportsbooks that make an effort to keep their websites fresh with new and exciting features, and tons of options regarding sports wagers, events on which to gamble, and casino games.
Choice of Banking Methods
Operations that are well-funded, well-staffed, and running a fair, legitimate business typically process these cash-out requests quickly — if not immediately — without any arbitrary delays or low payout limits. It’s your money, after all; you should be able to get your hands on that cash without any hassles!
Is Gambling Legal in China?
In mainland China, the answer is “no,” most forms of gambling are not legal. There are some special regions within the People’s Republic of China’s territories that are legalized gaming destinations, but we will discuss their laws and regulations in the next section. For now, we’re just talking about the mainland and their extremely limited range of lawful betting activities.
There are only two ways to experience gambling in China that are authorized by the government: the Welfare Lottery and Sports Lottery.
The Sports Lottery owns a monopoly on all of China’s sports betting on the mainland. There are several different sports lotteries available, which give you slightly different approaches to wagering on games. One version allows players to engage in pari-mutuel betting on the outcome of contests. 65% of the pool is then paid out to the winners depending on the size of their initial stake. There’s also a maximum payout allowed (per game, per person), which usually converts to roughly 741,000 US dollars.
Another popular variation of these games is the football (soccer) lottery. The player picks the results for fourteen matches, choosing either “home, away, or draw” on their card. Should a bettor win all of their bets, they’re paid the jackpot. However, they can also fall just short with only thirteen winners and still earn 30% of the total jackpot value.
There are also ways of placing more traditional sports bets through this lottery. Chinese citizens may place straight bets, point spreads, and parlays, but the odds at which the wager is made are not fixed. No matter when you buy your ticket, the betting lines aren’t final until the odds are closed. If you buy at one value, but then it drops before the contest, you’re stuck with the lower figure.
The other legal form of gambling in Mainland China is called the Welfare Lottery. These are more traditional lottos based on picking numbers and scheduled draws to determine the winners.
There are Welfare Lotteries throughout China, including some held at the provincial level or in specific regions — like Easter China — exclusively. The revenue from these bets finances charitable works and public welfare.
China’s leading national lottery is called “color ball,” and holds draws every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. The player chooses six numbers from a range of red balls from 1 – 33. They then select one additional blue ball numbered between 1 – 16. Hitting all of the numbers pays the jackpot, while lesser matches payout various fixed prizes as well.
You may find many other welfare lottery options with different rules, such as rapid draw games — which are essentially Keno — and PK Pickup, a virtual race that takes place between ten fictional competitors every five minutes. The gambler bets on the order in which the racers finish. You can bet on anywhere between one and ten final rankings, with the payouts increasing the more contestants you include.
Online gambling is extremely popular in Mainland China, regardless of its legal status. While it’s possible to be caught, enforcement of the anti-internet betting rules is rare, and only considered a minor crime, punishable by a small fine. Most of government prohibition comes at the hands of the Great Firewall, which merely bans the IP addresses of foreign gaming websites.
However, the people of China are quite used to finding ways around these blocked Chinese gambling sites by using VPNs – a tool that’s become a regular everyday part of life in the country. Estimations suggest that the amount of money bet by mainlanders illegally online each year equals the entire GDP of Beijing (between $300–$400-billion US).
Special Administrative Regions: Hong Kong & Macau
While the mainland follows the rules of the People’s Republic of China, two territories are given special status and allowed more autonomy over their laws and regulations. Both Macau and Hong Kong spent significant portions of their history under the rule of European empires. This played a fundamental role in the two islands’ cultural and legislative differences with the mainland.
In 1977, the Gambling Ordinance was passed to regulate Hong Kong’s local gambling industry. The government believed betting was growing out of hand on the island, but – rather than outlawing it all together – they decided to merely limit betting activities to specific establishments.
There are four kinds of legal gambling in Hong Kong: Mahjong, horse racing, football (soccer) matches, and lotteries. The regulatory authority in the territory is the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which operates a state-owned monopoly overall games but Mahjong – which is covered by special exemptions and different laws.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded in 1884. Since then, the track has grown to generate more horse race betting turnover than any other in the world. In fact, the HK Jockey Club is the Chinese government’s largest taxpayer. During the 2016-17 season, the club generated a turnover of roughly $27.6-billion US, with ~ $2.77-billion US dollars flowing to the government via taxes.
Any participation in gambling that falls outside of their four regulated methods is illegal and harshly punished. Here is the sentencing schedule for betting offenses (in US dollars):
- First strike: $1,275 fine and up to three months imprisonment.
- Second strike: $2,550 fine and up to six months imprisonment.
- Third strike: $3,825 fine and up to nine months imprisonment.
Lastly, all of the rules mentioned above apply to online gaming as well.
Gambling was legalized in Macau when the island state was still property of Portugal, back in the 1850s. Over the past few centuries, it has blossomed into what is now considered “the gambling capital of the world,” with a thriving tourist industry, massive Vegas-Strip-style casinos, hundreds of betting houses, and very few restrictions.
For the most part, there are only two real rules that visiting bettors must follow: the age to gamble in casinos is 21; for everything else you just need to be 18. Beyond the age guidelines, all games and wagers are permitted and available. Poker, lotteries, casino table games, sports betting, and racetrack gambling are all legal.
The regulatory authority in Macau is called the DIJC, an abbreviation whose letters stand for the Portuguese equivalent of “Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.” They are responsible for licensing and monitoring the legal establishments while enforcing criminal laws against money laundering, cheating, and playing at unlicensed locations.
Online gambling is not regulated in Macau, nor is it covered in their criminal code. Residents of the tourist destination may access China’s online gambling sites without fear of prosecution or punishment; although mainlanders do the same with only slightly more risk.
China’s History with Gambling
During the case, it was found that the lotto contractors responsible for selling the tickets were prearranging the winners and had accidentally let Liu’s slip away. Lottery authorities were then forced to pay the boy’s prize, while five contractors were arrested and imprisoned, while another couple government officials were forced to step down.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is gambling legal in China?
On the mainland, no; only two state-run lotteries are legal.
In Hong Kong, horse race betting, Mahjong, lotteries, and football/soccer wagers are legal.
In Macau, all gambling activities are legal. Online betting isn’t regulated but isn’t punished, so residents may lawfully access offshore Chinese gambling sites.
What happens if I’m caught using a betting site in a Chinese region without legalized online gambling?
If you’re caught using a foreign betting site in China’s mainland, you could be subject to a fine. However, accessing offshore gaming websites from inside the country is hugely prevalent and rarely punished.
Does China tax winnings from gambling?
Yes, all gambling winnings fall under “Accidental Income.” which is taxed at a flat 20% rate.
Who licenses the regulated and legal gambling markets in China?
The State Council grants the China Sports Lottery Administration Centre and China Welfare Lottery Issuance and Administration Center the rights to administer and sell tickets for their respective lotteries.
The Ministry of Finance regulates and monitors the lottery industry and oversees approval of lottos wishing to sell online.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs regulates the Welfare Lottery.
The General Administration of Sport regulates the Sports Lottery.
The China Welfare Lottery Issuance and Administration Center administers the welfare lottery.
The China Sports Lottery Administration Centre administers the sports lottery.