Simon’s Guide to Gambling in China

This is an of the lottery shop of the Chinese Welfare Lottery. Lottery and sports betting are the only two legal forms of gambling in China.

Mainland China – Gambling


Most forms of gambling are illegal in China, for decades. Despite this – and due largely to its size – China ranks number one in gambling revenues, if Hong Kong and Macau are included in the statistics. This article only discusses gambling in mainland China; if you would like to learn more about gambling in Macau and Hong Kong, please follow the links to the related articles. (Coming soon.)

Article 303 of the 1997 revision of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China states that: “Whoever, for the purpose of profit, gathers people to engage in gambling, runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention or public surveillance and shall also be fined.”* 

On first glance, most people don’t realize, that the law prohibits professional gambling only, not casual gambling. Despite this and official statements casual gambling is still regularly targeted, and there are several accounts of casual gamblers arrested. Though the law allows criminal detention, the usual punishment is a simple fine.

In spite of the general prohibition on gambling in China, some games of luck are permitted. Lottery and sports betting in particular are not considered gambling, and can be enjoyed at state-run lotteries and sport lotteries. Other legal forms of gambling in China are: several variations of sports betting, scratchcards, Keno and various video lottery terminals. Interestingly, betting on one of China’s oldest games, Mahjong is not allowed.

Online gambling is affected by the same rules as traditional gambling. It is illegal to operate online gambling sites in the country or to provide gambling services in China. Locals are not allowed to access gambling sites, and may be arrested for doing so, though that seldom happens. Foreign gambling websites are often blocked by internet service providers.

Even financial institutions (financial institutions with a Chinese majority ownership) block financial transactions to and from online gambling websites from the country, forcing Chinese players to use digital wallets, Bitcoins and other alternative payment methods.

Despite all of this, online gambling is a huge market in China, and some online gambling sites welcome Chinese players, even providing customer support in Chinese.


*Source: – Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China

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Casino gambling in China


Online casino gambling in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Casino gambling is illegal in China, and there are no legally operating casinos in mainland China, though there is a cruise ship in Yantai city, the Xiang Xue Lan, where casino gambling is available. Illicit gambling establishments and gatherings are also frequent in China, and are often raided by the police.

Online casino gambling is also illegal in China. Local online casino sites are often available for playing, but are unreliable, as they may be shut down at any moment due to their illicit nature. Foreign casino sites are also illegal to access, and are often banned by internet service providers. Those who circumvent this ban may be prosecuted, though arrests are rare.



Bingo in China


Online bingo in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Although China has several similar games, bingo is not that popular in China. There are no dedicated bingo halls in the country, but there have been bingo events held in the past few years. This likely signifies that bingo, along with the various forms of lottery is not necessarily considered gambling, and may be played legally.

Online bingo, on the other hand, is illegal, as operating any form of online gambling site is (apart from state-run lotteries). Participating in online bingo games is also illegal, and online bingo sites may be blocked. There are, however, several international bingo sites accepting players from China, though gamblers need to be aware of the risks of playing illegally.



Poker in China


Online poker in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Poker is also mostly unknown in China. As poker is considered a form of gambling – though arguably more a game of skill than a game of luck – operating and participating in poker games are both illegal and may be punishable with a fine, imprisonment or criminal detention.

Online poker is also illegal in China, as it is forbidden to operate any sort of gambling site in the country. Chinese poker players accessing foreign poker sites are also in the wrong, though prosecution of individual players for online gambling is rare. There are several international poker sites accepting players from China.



Sports betting in China


Online sports betting in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Sports betting is one of the few forms of gambling that are legal in China, though not in all forms. The state-run Chinese Sports Lottery has a monopoly on the market, and no one else is allowed to operate sports betting. The Chinese Sports Lottery offers pari-mutuel betting as well as a form of sports betting where results for 14 matches need to be picked at once.

The Chinese Sports Lottery has plans to expand to the online market, but no online sports betting is available as of yet. This also means that there are no legal online sports betting options in China. Betting on foreign sports betting sites is illegal, though still quite popular, as many international betting sites accept players from China.



Lottery in China


Online lottery in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Lottery games are legal in China, though only in the form of state-run lotteries. The previously mentioned Chinese Sports lottery offers scratch cards and traditional number-lotteries. The other lottery in the country is the Chinese Welfare Lottery, offering much of the same games, though without sports betting options. Proceedings from the former go towards sports programs, while the latter serves public welfare.*

Though plans have been made, neither of the Chinese lotteries have an online version at the moment. As operating lotteries without a licence is illegal, as is playing on international lottery sites, there are currently no legal options for Chinese gamblers looking for an online lottery. There are, however, several international lottery sites accepting players from China, though gamblers need to be aware of the fact that they may be arrested.


*Source: Sports Betting and Lottery Legal in China


Bitcoin gambling in China


Bitcoin gambling in China: illegal, players may be prosecuted


Bitcoin itself is legal in China, though banks and such institutions are not allowed to trade in Bitcoin, only individuals are. As a result, use of the virtual currency is relatively widespread.

Bitcoin casinos, on the other hand, are completely banned in China along with all other online gambling sites. Operators and players alike may be fined or even imprisoned for participating in Bitcoin gambling. However, practically all Bitcoin casinos accept players from China, and Bitcoin gambling is quite popular in the country due to its anonymous nature.



Online gambling websites accepting players from China


Online gambling is illegal and dangerous in China! There is a real chance, that if you play online you will be prosecuted, fined, and in extreme cases jailed. We do not recommend playing online from China (even if you are just a tourist visiting China). But if you are willing to risk it, there are many online casinos and online bookmakers, which accept players from china.

ISPs block access to online gambling websites and many Chinese owned financial institutions block financial transactions to and from overseas online gambling firms.

The following casino and online sportsbooks accept players from China.




BGO casino – accepting players from China


32 Red casino accepting players from China


32 Red online bookmaker, sports betting website – accepting players from China


Black Lotus casino accepting players from China




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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.


Last updated: 2015. 10. 28.

Simon's Guide to Online Gambling - China
Article Name
Simon's Guide to Online Gambling - China
Information on the legal status of gambling, online gambling, betting on mahjong etc... in China. Find out why lottery and sports betting in China are the only legal forms of gambling.

1 Response

  1. Simon says:

    Is it normal practise to pay cash for snooker businesses to avoid tax ?

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