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Online Casinos & Gambling in China in 2018

ChinaHome to over a billion people, China has some of the richest history in the world. But gambling and betting also form a strong part of Chinese culture. Gambling on dice, animals, and cards has been taking place for centuries. Unfortunately, the law hasn't always been aligned with the habits of Chinese gamblers.

Officially, most online gambling is illegal in China and a lot of remote betting is prohibited. However, many lotteries exist legally from region to region. And one of the world's largest gambling destinations, Macau, is a semi-autonomous region in China which has some of the biggest casinos in Asia.

At a lot of online casinos, China-based gamblers can deposit in renminbi (RMB) and choose Chinese-language games and services. But the legality of offshore casinos and gaming sites is still a tricky area. Let's explore the status of casino gambling in China in 2018.

In 2018, you can discover some of the best RMB online casinos. China is still catching up with the rest of the world in regulating online betting sites, but many offshore rooms accept Chinese gamblers.

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Gambling Laws in China in 2018

Despite decades of economic liberalisation, China remains a one-party Communist state. All affairs are run by the Communist Party, and corruption is taken seriously.

In general, all gambling is illegal on mainland China apart from some regulated lotteries. Macau, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are the three exceptions and operate some legalised gambling.

The main law regulating gambling is Article 303 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China (PRC). "Assembling a crowd to engage in gambling" for money is forbidden. A crowd in this case is anything more than two or three people.

While land-based gambling is strictly forbidden, the code has no specific legal definition of internet gambling or casino play. At a lot of online casinos, gamblers from China are permitted. However, it's still worth checking the Restricted Countries page before signing up from Beijing.

Macau: The former Portuguese colony is now a semi-autonomous region governed by China. As of 2018, Macau is the only place where land-based gambling is legal. Since it holds a virtual monopoly on offline gaming in China, Macau has fast become one of the biggest casino destinations in the world. It boasts casinos to rival Las Vegas in terms of size and games offered.

Hong Kong: Some gambling is permitted in Hong Kong, the former British colony handed back to China in 1997.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) holds the monopoly on sports betting, although it does run an online gambling site for residents.

Taiwan: Most forms of gambling are banned in Taiwan. However, its Uniform Invoice Lottery is permitted, as well other state-run lotteries. Casinos are technically legal after the Offshore Islands Development Act was established. But since the law was made in 2009, no casinos have been built.

Hainan: In 2018, there was surprise when China drafted proposals to make gambling illegal on Hainan Island. When it comes to online casinos, China is considering making all internet betting legal, as well as sportsbetting and lottery.

It is early days, but some commentators suggest Macau-style casinos could follow in time. Hainan is separated from the Chinese mainland, and so a new airport would be needed. Sanya has already held major poker tournaments in recent years, but casino gambling is fairly new.

Although casino gambling isn't allowed - yet - it hasn't stopped major casino chains building resorts there. The MGM Grand Sanya is one of the largest non-gaming five-star resorts in China.

Lottery: Lotteries operated by the government are not considered gambling for legal purposes, and there are two that are offered throughout the country - the Sports Lottery and the Welfare Lottery.

The Welfare Lottery is overseen by the China Welfare Lottery Issuance Centre and regulated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. It has been running since 1987.

The Sports Lottery is overseen by the China Sports Lottery Administration Centre, which has been in operation since 1994.

As well as the major nationwide lotteries, individual regions can hold their own draws. Players can also buy tickets at sites like TaoBao and 163.com. Online lottery licences are issued by the Ministry of Finance.

Popular Casino Games

Many popular games found at online casinos based overseas stem from China. Pai Gow and Sic Bo have been played in China for centuries. And some of the big Macau casinos still offer these popular table games.

Sic Bo is available at most online casinos. China-based gamblers love the game. Sic Bo is an easy dice game where bets are placed on the random outcome of three dice.

Baccarat and Punto Banco have been popular among Chinese gamblers for decades. Both games are offered at most online casinos. China allows these table games to be played in the big Macau casinos too.

Pai Gow is a Chinese gambling game played with domino-style tiles. While illegal to bet on Pai Gow on the mainland, Macau offers Pai Gow. The game was Americanized with cards and turned into Pai Gow Poker, played with a standard deck of 52 cards.

Mahjong is a tile-based game that has been played since the 17th Century. It's also hugely popular with gamblers in China. It's commonly played with four players and 144 tiles featuring Chinese characters. The object is to form legal "hands" by drawing and discarding tiles.

In 1998, a new set of rules was drawn up by the China State Sports Commission to dissuade Chinese players from gambling on Mahjong.

Best Deposit Methods for Chinese Gambling Online

China has access to a lot of online payment methods in 2018. Due to the vast size of the country, paying online for goods is often the best way to pay. It also allows Chinese customers to move real cash around quicker. However, big payment options like AliPay (AliBaba's payment system) and Tencent aren't usually accepted at offshore online rooms.

The offshore online casinos that accept residents from China allow deposits in renminbi or Chinese yuan (CNY). The best online casinos allow a wide spread of deposit limits, and withdrawals are possible.

UnionPay

UnionPay is a Chinese payment provider that allows transactions to online gaming sites. Prepaid UnionPay cards can also be loaded with funds and used on the web when in China. Essentially, UnionPay works like a regular debit or credit card, drawing on money from your own bank account.

Bank Transfer

Sometimes, a straight bank transfer from a Chinese bank account is the best way to fund internet gambling. All you need is an online banking account and the details of the casino you're sending RMB to. Fees will apply, especially if you are sending cash overseas.

PayPal

PayPal is one of the largest e-Wallet operators in the world. It's also the most popular third-party wallet in China in 2018. Customers can use a single virtual wallet to fund their gambling online. At online casinos, China-based gamblers can use their PayPal account to send money securely and anonymously. However, not all offshore casinos will accept RMB customers.

Live Betting and Casinos in China

Land-based casinos are banned outside the semi-autonomous regions of Macau and Sanya. That's where you will find the largest concentration of casinos.

Macau (the 'Vegas of the East') boasts some of the world's biggest and swankiest casinos. Major chains like Sands have casinos in Macau, as well as Melco Crown, whose Studio City has large backing from Aussie gambling mogul James Packer. The Cotai Strip is fast pushing Las Vegas as the world's hottest gambling destination.

For years, Chinese gamblers have visited Macau to play table games, having been denied games back home. However, a lot of VIP junkets (tour trips) have been clamped down on by the Chinese government. This is in an ongoing anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping to stop public officials and other Chinese tourists taking money out of the country. There are now strict limits on the amount of cash Chinese holidaymakers can take to Macau. 

However, there has been better news for Macau's casinos. While the Chinese government has been keen to make Macau more family friendly, casinos have started to see an upturn in gaming revenue. The region is now seen as more of a "mass market" destination and not just one for high rollers from the mainland.

Big Macau casinos:

Studio City: Baccarat and Sic Bo are two of the most popular games in Macau casinos. You will find these alongside slots at most big Macau casinos.

In 2015, Studio City became the first entertainment-focused casino to open since the Chinese crackdown. It also has Asia's first branch of super-nightclub Pacha. Studio City has a Hollywood theme and features Asia's biggest Ferris wheel, embedded in the side of the hotel.

Baccarat, blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, and European Roulette are all offered at Studio City. Of course, players can find Sic Bo too, and Fortune Baccarat, a special variant of the game with live dealers and electronic keypads to place bets.

Sands Macao: Sands Macao is the Chinese offshoot of the popular Las Vegas casino chain. Sands offers light shows and Chinese New Year decorations among its entertainment in a bid to be more appealing to families.

Venetian Macao: The Macau branch of the Venice-inspired casino is just as amazing as its Las Vegas sister site. The Venetian Macao has won awards for its entertainment complex and hotel. Chinese visitors can also get special travel packages when travelling by ferry from Hong Kong.

Poker: The Chinese authorities have been slow to catch on to the western boom in poker. However, it hasn't stopped major operators from trying to tap into what could be a massive market.

In a country where Sic Bo and Mahjong still rule, Texas Hold'em has really yet to take hold. However, Macau casinos still run some large-scale tournaments. And there are endless stories of multi-million dollar cash games taking place among Chinese businessmen and overseas pros.

Sanya on the island of Hainan has hosted large-scale poker events recently. The holiday destination is popular with Chinese tourists, and the island has long been touted as the next big rival for Macau. The first major poker tournament to be held on Chinese soil took place in 2012. WPT National Sanya was a big success, and the World Poker Tour have returned several times since. Local players generally do well, and in 2017 Qian Zhi Qiang won CNY1.6m ($242,555) in the WPT Sanya Main Event.

Sportsbetting: Other than the Sports Lottery, sportsbetting is prohibited in China. Illegal sportsbetting is a massive business in China, particularly around major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup. The Chinese authorities tend to come down hard on illegal bookmakers and websites.

Find the Best Online Casinos in 2018

China has one of the most well-established gambling cultures in the world. It also boasts some of the best land-based casinos anywhere outside Las Vegas. However, government attitudes to online gambling sites outside China are strict.

It's important to know where you stand if you are gambling at online casinos. China has a history of fining operators who break the law, and until Chinese gamblers can use ISPs to access any site they want the situation won't improve.

China Gambling at a Glance

Population: 1.3 billion
Legal Age of Gambling: 18
Land-based Casinos (Y/N): Y
Online Casinos Legal (Y/N): N
Popular Games: Sic Bo, Mahjong, lottery, sportsbetting, baccarat, Pai Gow, punto banco

Brief History of Gambling in China

2nd-4th Century BC - Wei Kingdom prohibits gambling and fines are handed out to guilty players.

16th Century - Under the rule of the Portuguese, the trading post of Macau becomes a haven for gambling. Games like Sic Bo and Pai Gow become more widely played.

17th-19th Century - Some gambling is popular in Taiwan.

1935 - Criminal Code of the Republic of China bans all public gambling and casinos. Mahjong is permitted on special holidays like Chinese New Year.

1949 - China's new Communist rulers ban all types of gambling.

1951 - Taiwan's Uniform Invoice Lottery is introduced.

1987 - Charity-based Welfare Lottery is introduced.

1994 - Sports Lottery is introduced.

1997 - Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese. Legal horse racing and sportsbetting continues.

2000 - New regulations are drawn up to promote responsible gambling. All operators must apply for Online Internet Culture licences to operate on the web.

2009 - Hainan Island looks at plans to liberalise gambling to attract tourists.

2012 - A small casino opens in Sanya, Hainan, offering baccarat and punto banco. It is quickly shut down by authorities.

2012 - The first poker event on Chinese soil is held at the MGM Grand.

2013 - Macau casino post record revenues of around $43bn combined.

2014 - An anti-corruption drive by the Chinese President Xi Jinping leads to a drop in revenue for major Macau casinos. Macau casinos record worst monthly revenues ever.

2018 - China considers legalising gambling on Hainan Island and relaxing visa rules for Chinese visitors.

2018 - Macau casinos see an upturn in their fortunes.

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