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Gambling in China

The only forms of legal gambling in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are the two government lotteries: the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery.

The China Welfare Lottery Issuance Center (CWLC) is regulated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and was authorized by the State Council to issue lottery tickets since 1987. The China Sports Lottery Administration Center (CSAC) is regulated by the General Administration of Sports and was authorized by the State Council to issue lottery tickets since 1994.

All forms of gambling besides lottery tickets issued by the above two government agencies have been prohibited since 1949. Operators and promoters of illegal casinos, as well as their customers, are punished by fines and imprisonment.

The lottery market, however, has been booming. The industry was worth USD 40 billion in 2012, ranking a close second behind the US and set to overtake it within a few years.

Betting on horse races has always been extremely popular throughout China and quietly continues despite the prohibition. The government legalized races in 2008 and is also is considering legalizing the betting on them, but progress is slow.

Since 2007, China’s lottery market has rapidly expanded with sales exceeding RMB100 billion and a continuous annual growth rate of 25%. In 2010 alone, China's lottery market has generated RMB69.4 billion in profits, of which 75% was used to build new community sports centers and fund social welfare programs.

Betting on horse races has always been extremely popular throughout China and quietly continues despite the prohibition. PRC’s government is considering legalizing the betting on horse races throughout the mainland, but progress is slow.

Macau and Hong Kong are both considered Special Administrative Regions and even though still part of the PRC, they both require passport visas to enter, and both have completely different laws and forms of government. Officially, casino gambling is restricted to Macau, and betting on horse races is restricted to Hong Kong.

The estimated revenues generated by illegal gambling operations in mainland PRC are estimated to be 10-20 times larger than the combined revenues from both legal lotteries.

Online Gambling in China

The situation with Chinese online gambling is similar. The government does not grant licenses to operate online gambling sites in China. Technically, players are not supposed to play at overseas gaming sites either, and the government even tries to filter them out of the internet, but players always find ways to play.

There are lots of gambling websites around the world that accept players from China, and some are even catering specifically to Chinese players. Chinese casinos are sometimes available in Traditional and Modern Chinese, and a few offshore sites even accept payment using Chinese bank cards.