China is the world’s largest consumer of illegal betting services, and what’s the most popular sport among Chinese? Basketball.
The People’s Republic of China has two great national pastimes. While the first is an athletic pursuit, the second involves gaggles of men crowding into smoky rooms and basements. One is 100% legal and encouraged by the authorities, while the other is treated as a harmful social vice.
What are these mysterious pastimes? Basketball and gambling, of course. No recreational activities stir the passions of the Chinese people quite like these two. It isn’t uncommon for a Chinese man to step off the court and walk right into a betting shop.
While sportsbetting is prohibited and strongly discouraged by the Chinese Communist Party, Big Brother seems powerless in his attempts to stop it. Here are a few key insights on the state of betting in the People’s Republic:
#1: Betting on Basketball in China is illegal
China has no regulated, taxed gambling industry. There are no betting shops perched on main streets, nor are there any online sportsbooks in China online sportsbooks in China. During 2014 the authorities initiated a crackdown on underground betting operations as well as hard rooms, arresting thousands of people throughout the country.
What effect did the anti-gambling campaign have? In alllikelihood, very little. Police carried out high-profile raids, made scores of arrests and showed the public that they aren’t going to tolerate any anti-social behavior. But they’ve been doing this stuff for decades, and the people of China simply don’t care.
An estimated RMB 1 trillion ($160 billion) is wagered illegally each year in China. Even though this averages out to slightly more than $100 per person, the Middle Kingdom is the world’s largest consumer of black market betting services. So while basketball bettors have nowhere to legally place wagers, they have proven resourceful nonetheless.
#2: The government is unlikely to soften its stance
Despite speculation that the authorities will admit the futility of their gambling crackdown and begin regulating the industry, there is little chance of that actually happening. The Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Xi Jingping has taken an even harder line toward gambling than its predecessors did.
Under current Chinese gambling laws, casinos can legally operate only in Macau and betting shops are confined to Hong Kong. No online betting or casino gambling is sanctioned in any form. That status quo will not change anytime soon.
However, that doesn’t pose much of a problem for those looking to bet on basketball or other sports. The government’s clumsy, ham-handed attempts to enforce gambling laws have succeeded only in reminding the public that Beijing is still in charge.
#3: The NBA and CBA are both immensely popular
The NBA has been the biggest professional sports league in China since 1987, when NBA TV began broadcasting games in China. American stars such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James have all enjoyed massive popularity on the other side of the Pacific.
• Chinese authorities helpless to stop black market betting
• Chinese spend an estimated $160 billion each year on illegal gambling
• Offshore sportsbooks Bet365 and BetVictor cater to Chinese bettors
While the world’s best basketball league remains top dog in China, it is being closely trailed by the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), the country’s premier professional sports league. The CBA has seen increasing attendance and TV viewership every year since its launch in 1995.
The CBA is home to former NBA stars Stephon Marbury and Metta World Peace and has also produced homegrown NBA players Yao Ming, Xi Yianlian, Wang ZhiZhi and MengkeBateer. Chinese bettors have shown a predilection for betting on both leagues; online betting in Malaysia and Singapore (places where many Chinese place bets) specializes in NBA and CBA games.
#4: International sportsbooks cater to the Chinese market
There are no licensed sportsbooks located in The People’s Republic. But numerous offshore bookmakers make a point of catering to the Chinese market. Leading online sportsbooks such as Bet365 and BetVictorare accessible in Mandarin, and a countless number of sites accept wagers on CBA games. Some of these sites even accept deposits in renminbi.
How can someone in China bet with an online sportsbook? Simply log on, create an account, place an initial deposit, and start betting. The only hang-up is the difficulty in transferring money from a Chinese bank account to an offshore sportsbook.
Luckily, there are ways of getting around that as well. Any of the numerous e-wallet services available (Skrill, Paypal, Neteller, etc.) can be used an intermediary to get funds from a Chinese bank account into an online sportsbetting account.
Parting words of wisdom
Betting on basketball in China is a huge business, despite being taboo in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese citizens wager more than $100 billion annually on sports, much of which is put on NBA and CBA games.
Basketball fans based in China looking to bet on basketball games have no shortage of options at their disposal. Offshore sportsbetting sites like Bet365 and BetVictor are accessible in Mandarin and accept wagers on CBA games. And while most Chinese banks won’t process transactions bound for betting sites, creating an e-wallet account provides a way of getting around that.