The Chinese are widely regarded as one of the most gambling nations in the world. Macau’s gambling zone is comparable in fame and popularity to the legendary Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Online casinos are not encouraged in Macau and the Chinese are not as welcome on online casino websites. In the real world, on the other hand, they gamble all over the place. Hardly any event can do without gambling, and lottery tickets are much sought after in China. The history of gambling in China goes back a long way.
They were first mentioned back in the first imperial dynasty, which means that more than 4,000 years ago, these games were already known and popular. China is considered the birthplace of many gambling games and is where the idea of lotteries originated. Dice games like Mahjong and Pai Gow, which are very popular in many countries today, also have Chinese roots. According to one version, playing cards were also invented by the Chinese.
And casino prototypes originated in China as early as the 7th century AD, long before the first European casinos opened. “The gambling business was run by powerful organisations, often linked to crime and patronised by corrupt officials. More and more gambling establishments appeared, and there was no shortage of those wishing to gamble. In the 14-17th centuries gambling was a highly profitable business, and the organisers of gambling houses were highly respected people.
From the second half of the 19th century, gambling was concentrated in Shanghai. Large casinos operated there, where both domestic and foreign games were available. After the revolution, gambling was banned almost all over China, apart from Macau, which was a Portuguese colony. Gambling was legalised here in 1847 and has grown steadily ever since, accounting for 70% of the region’s revenue according to 2010 figures.
Since 2002 foreign nationals can open gambling establishments in Macau. The administrative district is a major tourist centre and more than half of the visitors play in the casinos, of which there are over three dozen. Macau is currently the only region in China where casinos operate legally. Besides that, betting on horse races is accepted in Hong Kong and lottery tickets are sold all over the country, floating casinos operate on cruise liners. On the other hand, internet casinos have been virtually non-existent in China since 2010 and their advertising is suppressed.
Gambling in Macau
In Macau, gambling is regulated by the Macau Head of Administration and its subsidiary bodies, Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. The authority of the chief executive is to determine gambling policy and to license casino operators in Macau.
The auxiliary bodies coordinate and supervise the gambling market and issue specific licenses:
- gambling promoters;
- makers of electronic casino equipment;
- Manufacturers of gambling equipment (cards, dice, chips, etc.).
The actions of local authorities are subject to a piece of legislation – Macau Gaming Law. The law establishes the legal framework for the organisation of commercial gambling. In addition, there are a number of clarifying acts:
- Instant Lottery Law – regulates the supply of instant lotteries;
- Illegal Gaming Law – contains a list of games and equipment that are considered illegal;
- International Gaming Tender Regulation – a law that allows foreign entrepreneurs to set up a gambling business in Macau;
- Gaming Promoters’ Regulation – an act that regulates the promotion and advertising of gambling, as well as the organisation of junket tours;
- Gaming Credit Law – regulates loans to casino operators and promoters in the gambling industry;
- Junket Commissions Regulation – outlines the boundaries within which promoters of junket tours receive commissions;
- Electronic Gaming Machines Regulation – controls the issuing of licences to manufacturers of equipment used in casinos.
The legal framework allows the gambling industry to develop in Macau and attract foreign entrepreneurs to develop the gambling zone. The possibility of obtaining a license in the gambling capital of China allows global land-based casino operators to locate their establishments in Macau. This, in turn, increases the attractiveness of the gambling zone for tourists and locals
Mobile casinos in China
China is experiencing a golden age of technological advancement, with many Chinese brands becoming world leaders in terms of sales of smartphones and similar technological devices. The country has been quick to follow global trends, and despite having a population of over 1.4 billion people, more than half of them own a smartphone. More precisely, more than 55% of the population, or more than 780,000,000 citizens. The number of smartphone users in China who use devices on a fast 4G network is over 78%, meaning that the majority of Chinese can afford the luxury of fast and stable mobile communication regardless of their location.
The most popular smartphone brands in China are OPPO, Vivo, Huawei, Samsung and Honor, while the most popular devices are the Honor V20, Vivo X27, Huawei P30 Lite, Samsung Galaxy S10 and OPPO Reno series. This paves the way for reliable, uninterrupted mobile gaming sessions. However, as the Chinese need to access online casinos via VPN, most players still use desktops and laptops to access online gambling.
All online casinos offering their services to Chinese players adhere to strict industry standards and offer a mobile version of their casino, which can be accessed through a downloadable Android and iOS app or through a mobile casino with browser access. Chinese mobile casinos also offer mobile customer support, the ability to make mobile payments and withdrawals, and hundreds of mobile casino games.
History of gambling in China
Gambling has been an attraction for entertainment and profit for as long as man has existed. The very nature of risking something for greater returns has been a thrill in the human mind. Although it is difficult to determine when and where gambling originated, many historians and experts believe that it all started in ancient China. Therefore, China has the largest and most complex history of gambling in the world.
Experts have discovered records of gambling dating back as far as 2100 BC. Interestingly, the game, which we know as Keno, is known to have been played around this time. Moreover, games with features similar to poker and blackjack were believed to be played by Chinese upper class citizens and members of its armed forces. Throughout history, gambling has been dealt with by the government just as it is today; it was seen as an evil obsession that caused serious problems in society. Thus, it was officially banned or condemned even in ancient times.
Nevertheless, this did not stop the Chinese, and during the Spring and Autumn periods (771 to 476 BC) in China, gambling became completely mainstream. Almost everyone was involved in betting on the various games, from villagers in the countryside to high-class citizens and military officers, the latter of whom often faced the consequences for dabbling. During the Tang (617 – 908 AD) and Northern Song (950 – 1128 AD) dynasties, the first forms of gambling establishments, i.e. casinos, emerged. It was around this time that Xuan He Pai, which is the basis of modern mahjong, was invented. Gambling continued to flourish into the Middle Ages, and many came to regard it as a form of livelihood that involved obvious problems.
Links to the criminal underground and corruption became inevitable. The 1930s and 50s also saw a lot of new games appear on the Chinese market, but shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (1949), gambling was hit hard and all gambling was completely banned. Today, China only allows a national lottery, where players can bet on horse racing and sports. However, this has not stopped Chinese people from placing bets at online casinos through VPN proxies. More than 1 trillion yuan (over $140 million) is believed to be illegally wagered in mainland China every year.
Some forms of gambling are legal in Hong Kong, a part of China’s autonomous region, as the region is allowed to make most of its own laws. In fact, gambling has been legal in Hong Kong since 1977.
Macau is known as Las Vegas in the East. In 2007, its gaming revenue exceeded that of Las Vegas, with the annual gaming revenue exceeding US$28 billion. Gambling has been legal in Macau since 1850. Today, the region is home to more than 35 land-based casinos and attracts millions of tourists a year, many of them wealthy citizens from other parts of China.
Popular slot machines in China
Popular in Macau are the slots from world-renowned manufacturers that supply slot machines to land-based casinos. Some of these machines include:
- Triple Diamonds;
- 88 Fortunes;
- Wheel of Fortune;
- Hot Shot.
The list of favourite games among the Chinese population includes both classic slot machines and modern five-reel slots with all sorts of bonuses. Most casinos feature machines from Greentube, IGT, SG Gaming and WMS.
Video poker machines and digital versions of table games are in demand. Poker slots, digital baccarat and virtual blackjack are the most popular.
Slot machines are a popular pastime in Macau casinos.
Gambling software developers
In China, the gambling industry is linked tourism and the attraction of foreign investors. Therefore, there is no in-house production of slot machines and casino equipment in the country. All the necessary equipment in the gambling zones is imported. Macau authorities issue licences to global developers of technical solutions for land-based gambling establishments. Operators fill casino halls with the products of world-renowned manufacturers.
Prospects of gambling business development in China
The development of gambling business in China is rather limited. Gambling is banned throughout the country, and only in the Macau gambling zone is it possible to bet on sports, as well as table games and slot machines. The gambling zone is developed in close connection with the tourism business. Macau’s casinos are presented as part of hotel complexes with a well-developed infrastructure.
To date, visitors to the gambling zone are mostly VIPs. However, in the near future it is planned to shift the balance in favour of mass accessibility. This change will provide Macau with more visitors. Ultimately, this will have an impact on the growth of the revenues China receives from the gambling industry.