Why Do Asians Gamble So Much?

  • There are deep cultural and supersitios roots around the idea of luck
  • Gambling is a form of healthy social interaction
  • The gambling addict will lose status in the community
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Asians have ancienct gambling traditions
Image Source: Flickr

Why do Asians gamble so much? Whenever you’re in a casino, have a look around at the people playing and the same question always comes up. According to the Chinese, “We have this saying in Chinese: if you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are.”

Introduction: Why do Asians Gamble So Much?

Without a doubt, Asians are some of the world’s biggest gamblers. Research in the US shows that Asians have a much higher number of pathological gamblers (from 6 –  60%) compared with national rates of 1 – 2%. Many Asians gamble as a form of social interaction. They even say that a little gambling is good for the health. For most people, it’s a fun and enjoyable pastime. Like playing Intertops Poker!

Wave to the Lucky Cat

Apparently, 80% of all monies wagered at the major casinos in the US comes from the hands of Asians. It’s the same for the online poker sites in the US. They see gambling as a social activity, in a much more positive light than say, in the US. As far as individual races go, no other race likes to gamble as much as the Chinese. As with other Asian cultures, they place a high regard on numerology, superstition and the notion of “luck”, to a much greater degree than Western cultures. Furthermore, they carry a much greater sense of the “self” and winning or losing carries a greater weight of identity. Asians also tend to feel a sense of predetermination, that the fates or the Gods can give a blessing leading to success. Hence the number of lucky charms you can see in all Asian market places.

It’s a Cultural Thing

Various studies have shown that Eastern cultures do most definitely have a propensity towards gambling. As stated above, they easily fall prey to “superstition” and “luck”. For the Chinese, these factors mean that gambling is pretty much ingrained within their society. It’s part and parcel of their culture. For example, during the Lunar New Year, gambling dens are chock full of people playing poker, mahjong, blackjack and various other games of dice. Another factor is that modern Chinese are much more obsessed about money. They watched their parent suffer during Mao, and have a deep fear of being without. This leads to recklessness.

Why do Asians Gamble So Much? Maj Jong and Go

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Maj Jong in play. Author: yui* [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Though gambling is technically illegal in China, but, for example not in the Philippines, gambling is deeply ingrained in tradition. Keep in mind that the game of Maj Jong is as old as history itself, said to be an invention of Confucius himself in around 500 BC. Asians gamble with this popular and universally oriental game. People commonly play it for money at weddings, parties, and any social gathering. One of the oldest board games in the world is “Go”. Some say that it’s origins lie in Astrology and the game is really a form of divination. Others believe it was the invention of Emperor Yao around 2200 BC as a means to improve his son’s mental agility. Even today, both these games are played to keep the mind sharp. Pai gow and sci bo are other games commonly played with a small wager.


In 2014,  the Chinese app maker WeChat introduced a service called Hong Bao, which translates into “red packet”. This is the traditional envelope given at weddings, birthdays and the New Year. But the app quickly morphed into a lottery. The rules were simple: “the group member who receives the least amount of money is required to start the next round by issuing a Hong Bao envelope containing an amount equal to or greater than the amount he/she received”. The member who is allocated the highest amount naturally wins the round.


There are over 3.2 million gambling addicts in Japan. Though gambling is meant to be illegal, there are still over 12 thousand pachinko parlors all over the country. The sound is unmistakable as the steel balls rattle through the machines. Across the water, South Koreans have set up lucrative gambling sites in Thailand. This is because gambling is highly illegal in South Korea.

Do You Want Chips With That?

Of course, US casinos, and online casinos like Intertops Poker, have been quick to both recognize and cater for the influx of Asian gamblers. Many locations offer ethnic food, famous Asian entertainers and even croupiers and dealers who speak a number of Asian languages. Just take a trip to Macau. Some casinos have their websites (check out these online poker sites in the US)with both Chinese and Vietnamese language options. From a psychological perspective, some say that casinos give new immigrants a sense of solidarity. A break from the rough and tussle that moving to a new country can bring. On the other side of the coin, for many of these cultures there exist the notion of face and shame. To this end, the problem gambler will receive short change from any community.  The shame and stigma that go hand in hand will see that person gradually lose their virtue in the community.

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