Two forms of gambling are officially legal in China while all other forms are prohibited. The national Welfare Lottery and Sports Lottery are both administered by the government and act as the sole form of sanctioned betting in the country. Together, the two state lotteries bring in north of $US40 billion per year (¥245 billion).

As impressive a number as that may be, the underground gambling industry does much better. Multiple sources have estimated that the illegal gambling market in China is at least 10 times larger than the national lottery. It’s obvious there’s a bit of a discrepancy between what the country’s gambling laws proclaim and what the people actually do.

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This isn’t surprising for any of us living in China. Gambling is everywhere. The state lottery has outlets all over the place while people routinely host social games at home. Criminal groups operate full-fledged underground casinos and clandestine Chinese betting sites. It doesn’t require much of an effort to find some sort of game in your neighborhood.

Offshore online casinos are doing big business in China as well. The Chinese government has had a tough time regulating these because they operate out of countries such as the UK and the Philippines where internet wagering is 100% legal and regulated. Chinese authorities have no method to shut these sites down other than using the Great Firewall internet censorship program in an attempt to block access to gaming websites.

Out of all the forms of gambling available in China, I would have to say foreign gaming sites offer the best value and greatest degree of safety. The Chinese lottery has terrible odds and is subject to high taxation. Underground casinos are fraught with danger and a lack of regulation. Foreign websites, on the other hand, offer the great combination of safety, convenience and value.

China is an extremely valuable market for internet casinos. A population of 1.35 billion and a pro-gambling culture makes it almost a holy grail for wagering. Despite its strict anti-gambling laws, many betting websites are willing to take the legal risk. The market is just too good to pass up.

Instead of blocking access to us like the law would imply, these companies cater to us with Chinese language websites and deposit methods that work with the Chinese Yuan Renminbi. You can use your debit card, bank transfer or cash voucher to make deposits that are credited to your account instantly. And when you’re done gambling, a withdrawal can be used to send the money straight to your bank account.

No. Chinese law prohibits all forms of gambling. Having said that, the risk of getting in trouble is low. Millions of Chinese citizens have been gambling online for years without any problems. In theory, the authorities could arrest you if they caught you placing bets over the internet. The risk is there, but it’s quite low.

Police forces in China tend to focus their efforts on breaking up underground gambling rings run by criminal groups inside China. Those are much juicier and easier-to-prosecute targets. If you’re just one person sitting at home placing bets on a gaming site based out of the Philippines, you have little to worry about.

Just remember it is technically illegal to participate in any form of unsanctioned gaming. You should decide for yourself if you feel the risk is worth it. If you do decide to proceed, it would be best to keep your mouth shut and avoid playing in public. Do your gambling at home on a private connection and keep your wins to yourself.

Depositing with RMB / CNY

The Chinese Yuan Renminbi is accepted by nearly every major betting site in the world. Most sites also accept the Hong Kong dollar. The deposit methods accepted by these companies are designed to work with the most popular Chinese banking options. Local bank transfers, online e-wallets, Asia365, AsiaPay88 and many more are accepted.

Most deposit methods require you to have a bank account. I would recommend setting one up even if you’re not particularly fond of banks. It will make the entire process so much more convenient as you can send and receive money electronically without having to leave the house.

The Great Firewall

China isn’t particularly interested in tracking down and prosecuting individual gamblers playing online from home. Instead, an internet censorship program is used to block access to known gaming websites. If you visit your favorite online casino and receive an error message, it probably got caught up in the Great Firewall.

There are a couple of things you can do to get around this. One is to run a search for the name of your website and look for one its alternate domains. China-friendly betting websites are aware of the situation and frequently set up new, temporary domains to help customers get around the block.

Another option is to use a VPN service to encrypt your internet traffic and get around any internet firewalls. VPNs are very easy to set up. All you need to do is sign up for an account, install the software and click the “connect” button. This will grant you full access to the entire internet.

China Gambling Laws

The gambling laws of China very clearly outlaw all forms of unsanctioned betting. Authorities are constantly on the lookout for underground gambling dens. News stories abound of police raiding criminally-sponsored underground casinos

The prohibition of gambling makes no distinction between offline and online gambling. Anything other than the state lottery is illegal. The closest alternatives you have are visiting Hong Kong to bet on horses or heading to Macau to visit its lavish casinos and sportsbooks.

Hong Kong and Macau are the sole exceptions in China. Each of these is considered a “special administrative region” and is has some latitude in determining the laws within. China has taken no action against either region for legalizing gambling, although China does discourage citizens from brining more than a limited amount of money into Macau.

China is slowly coming to terms with the rise of internet gaming. Both state lotteries have internet presences and do allow limited forms of online and mobile wagering. These lottery services offer a very basic form of gambling but are immensely popular nonetheless.

The China Welfare Lottery has been selling tickets since 1987 and uses proceeds to fund social welfare programs such as assisting the homeless, responding to disasters and so on. Last year’s Welfare Lottery sold more than 1 trillion yuan worth of tickets.

The China Sports Lottery was introduced in 1989 and now acts as the closest approximation to legal sports betting in the country. The sports lottery previously only accepted wagers on football and basketball, but expanded its options in 2014 to include hockey, handball, table tennis, badminton, water polo and volleyball.

Since going live in 1989, the sports lottery has seen incredible growth numbers. During last the 2014 World Cup, the lottery set a new single day sales record of RMB 550 million. Casual gamblers should find the sports lottery adequate, but those serious about getting the most value should look to foreign sports betting sites which have significantly better odds, a much wider ranges of sports and a greater variety of bet types.