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Hong Kong Online Casinos

Hong KongMuch like Macau, Hong Kong has become a destination for mainland Chinese residents who are looking for somewhere to place a few bets. Unlike Macau, however, this is not a place of unlimited gambling and huge casinos. Instead, the local government keeps a fairly tight control over the industry, with only a limited number of authorized bodies being able to offer such services, including the famous Hong Kong Jockey Club.

When it comes to online play, nothing is authorized by the government here, though they haven’t done much to prevent citizens from playing on such sites. That means that foreign operators largely see this territory as fair game, and many of them offer real money games through their sites here.

Legal Gaming Limited, But Widely Available

Much like in mainland China, betting has a long and storied history in Hong Kong. While the local government never wanted to stop this activity entirely, they had an interest in controlling the extent of the industry without making it too hard for citizens to enjoy placing a bet here and there. That desire led to the passage of the 1977 Gambling Ordinance, which governs the industry there today.

Under current law, there are no land-based casinos in the territory. However, there are cruise ships with on-board casinos that dock in the city and then travel out to international waters before taking any bets. Brick-and-mortar establishments have been considered here, but were rejected by the government on several occasions; the prevailing wisdom seems to be that any attempt to compete with Macau would be foolish, and any gains would be outweighed by the social harm brought by expanded gaming options.

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If you want to place a legal bet in this region, it is almost certainly going to happen through the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Founded in 1884, this exclusive club for the social elite has long been the major horse racing operator in the community, and operates as a nonprofit organization that runs a variety of gambling related operations for charitable causes.

To put it another way, the group has a complete monopoly over the legal betting enterprises in the territory. They are the only organization that is allowed to offer parimutuel wagering on horse races, run a lottery, or offer betting on overseas soccer matches. But the Jockey Club (HKJC) is much more than a gambling enterprise: it is the largest taxpayer in all of Hong Kong, and it also donates more money to charities than any other entity here. The HKJC is also known for finding projects that will provide social benefits to the people here – making this one of the best examples of a gaming industry that strongly encourages the public good.

Despite this reach, however, the Jockey Club isn’t the only game in town. Illegal gambling rings are relatively common here, sometimes making headlines when their operations become particularly extensive. During the 2014 World Cup, police here confiscated millions of dollars of illegal betting records along with significant amounts of cash and electronics, all of which were tied to wagering on the event.

Foreign Sites Operate in Territory

As in the rest of China, there is no regulatory framework for online gambling sites in Hong Kong. That means it is illegal for anyone to operate an online casino in Hong Kong. However, that doesn’t mean that such sites aren’t seen here – it’s just that they are all based on foreign countries. And since the government has shown no interest in stopping individuals from playing on these websites, these overseas operators view this as a grey market, one where they can offer games despite the lack of a licensing system.

The selection of online casinos found here is informed by this lack of regulation: while there are many very reputable companies that allow their games to be played here, other big names in the industry stay out, choosing to stick to regulated markets (this is particularly true of publically-owned companies). Still, you will be likely to find sites with software from any of the following brands while playing here:

  • Realtime Gaming
  • Betsoft
  • NetEnt
  • Microgaming
  • Topgame
  • Novomatic

HKJC Concerned About Illegal Betting

The Jockey Club still wields considerable influence and power in Hong Kong, but the organization has become increasingly concerned about the spread of illegal gambling both locally and across the globe. While officials with the group have framed the issue as one related to preserving the integrity of horse racing and other sports, it’s easy to understand that they also has concerns about the revenues they lose to these illicit operations.

Some of that concern is related to Internet betting, particularly when it comes to overseas operators that allow betting on races taking place in Hong Kong. Officials have worried that such sites are potential havens for money laundering and organized crime, and that this in turn could impact the sanctity of their own races.

To be sure, the Jockey Club has long prided itself on the security of its racing operations, which are seen throughout the industry as having as much integrity as any in the world. But many observers still worry about the potential scandals that offshore betting sites could cause.

That leads to a potentially obvious question: could the HKJC decide to start its own sites in order to give bettors a more legitimate way to bet on races over the Internet? The organization has done nothing to suggest this is coming, but in a world where they have little control over what bets are taken in overseas jurisdictions, it’s unclear what a better solution would be.

Regardless of whether this motivates them to move into the Internet betting game, it’s almost certain that any expansion of gambling will go through the Jockey Club, as there is no sign that their monopoly on the gaming industry here is going away anytime soon. It also seems unlikely that proposals to build casinos here will get off the ground anytime soon: Macau is a very formidable (and somewhat local) rival in that arena. That may leave Internet play as the only natural expansion avenue for the HKJC, though we suspect it will be some time before they seriously consider heading down that road.

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