The Difference Between China, Hong Kong and Macau When It Comes to Gambling
China is like a mystery in the eyes of foreigners since everything is closely watched and censored. It is generally known that gambling is against the law in China, but most people have very little idea about the intricacies of Chinese gambling laws, let alone Hong Kong and Macau.
Gambling in Macau
It’s astonishing how different Macau is from China and Hong Kong: this place is a gamblers’ dream. Macau is where some of the most extravagant casinos reside and where the highest of high-rollers conglomerate. If you’re a foreigner though, remember to bring your passport for the security to check whether you’re over 21.
You may as well enjoy it while it lasts, for the future of Macau as a gambling hub is very uncertain. The Portuguese colonial rule that makes Macau what it is will expire in 2049. When it happens, it’s very likely that this gamblers’ paradise will be no more.
For all its reputation, sadly, online gambling is not legal here. This is because it’s not regulated by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau of Macau.
Gambling in Hong Kong
There’s a weird paradox in Hong Kong: you can’t open or join a casino, but there are casino advertisements on the streets. These are legal, and come from Macau casinos.
If you want to gamble, you can only do it by betting on horse races, football or playing the lotteries. However, you have to do it through the official organization of the government: the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). Any bookies not under the HKJC are illegal, and they can be punished with a 7-year sentence. As for the illegal gamblers, the sentence is not as severe — up to 9 months.
Gambling in Mainland China
All forms of gambling are illegal in Mainland China. It doesn’t matter if you play at an underground casino or your friend’s house for pennies. For this reason, some Chinese people open casinos abroad whose main customer demographic is Chinese citizens. This, is also against the law.
By some miracle or others, apparently government-run lotteries are not considered ‘gambling’ in China. So, you can take part in the Welfare lottery or the China Sports lottery without any consequences. All the money, of course, goes to the government.
If you’re an expat in China, getting caught gambling can still result in imprisonment. So, it’s recommended that you gamble in an online casino outside of China. Most sites are blocked so you probably have to use a VPN.
China Has Long Been Against Gambling
During the early days of China, gambling was already considered a social evil. There are tales of gamblers having their hands chopped off and execution of government officials who gambled.
Gambling only became legal in some parts of China in the 1800s, when England, Japan and others took over different Chinese regions and brought along their influences. For instance, Japan introduced lotteries in Taiwan in 1906. Gambling became really widespread in China during this era, with the appearances of horse racing, Pai Gow, Sic Bo, Mahjong…
When the People’s Republic of China was born in 1949, the country went back to villainizing gambling like its early days. The government ran labor programs to re-educate gamblers and at one time, banned the playing of Mahjong, even for no money.
In 1984, the Beijing International Marathon took place, which led to the government running sports betting organizations. This seemed like good news for gamblers in China, but the regime was quickly prohibited again in 1986.