A cashless casino has started operations in the southern Chinese resort area of Sanya Bay. Some have voiced hopes that this may be the first step towards legalized gambling on mainland China.
The casino-bar is called Jesters and it opened in the local Mangrove Tree Resort World. At this time it is accessible only to the resort’s visitors, but plans are to make it available to a wider clientele. The establishment has 50 tables serving gamblers who may not cash out their winnings, except as credits, which they can spend on their accommodation, food and local souvenirs.
What sounds like a real-life social gaming establishment at first is actually an unofficial pilot project, which may pave the way towards further casinos springing up all across China.
At least those are the hopes that casino owner and real-estate millionaire Zhang Baoquan voiced. “Our casino bar is the first in the country. The government is monitoring, it’s a test. Right now we are not at this stage [of legalising casino gambling], but my personal opinion is, in the future, there is a big possibility that they will have,” said the enterprising Zhang.
According to current Chinese gambling laws, casinos may only be operated in the special administrative area of Macau, so the establishments will spend every minute of its operation under the watchful eyes of the communist-capitalist country’s authorities.
The move is actually quite natural for a country where salaries for tens of millions of people jump up by about 20% every year and demand for everything posh, luxurious and fancy is soaring. No wonder that mainland visitors generate a large proportion of the traffic in Macau’s casinos, while those are not into casinos pump billions of dollars – illegally – into the internet betting industry.
Outside of Macau and Hong Kong legal Chinese gambling is limited to a state-run lottery. Illegal gambling, however, thrives. From mahjong parlors to illegal casinos, people visit such establishments regularly. With technological advances an increasing portion of the local population is also gambling on foreign online casinos in China – if they can access them.
It remains to be seen what the Sanya Bay experiment will lead to and on just what basis will its success or failure be evaluated, but it is certainly never easy to put the genie back into bottle once it has been released.