Are online casino sites legal in China?

China’s laws surrounding gambling are amongst the strictest in the world, with most forms of gambling strictly forbidden. This article explores the gambling laws relating to mainland China and whether it is possible for Chinese players to place real money bets online.

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Overview of Chinas gambling laws

Most forms of gambling in China are outlawed, excluding China’s special administrative region of Macau, which rivals Las Vegas as the biggest global gambling destination. Unlike Macau where casinos account for most of the regions revenue, mainland China takes a zero-tolerance approach to casino gambling and gambling on card games, although some betting is allowed on state-run lotteries and certain forms of sports betting, keno, scratch cards and video lottery terminals.

Chinese gambling law is covered under the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, with the dominant statement in Article 303 of the 1997 version being:

“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.”

Chinese authorities take gambling very seriously, with recent anti-corruption and money laundering crackdowns busting many illicit gambling rings, gambling operators and individual gamblers. Chinese nationals found to be breaking gambling laws can face heavy penalties, which is why so many people from mainland China make the trip across to Macau where they can enjoy casino gambling in a legal, safe and regulated environment.

Is online gambling legal in China?

No – all forms of online gambling are strictly forbidden in China, including placing bets at online casinos. Like land based gambling, online gambling is subject to the same laws and restrictions. No operators are legally allowed to run online gambling services within China, and it is illegal for international operators to offer their services to Chinese players. Chinese citizens found gambling online can be punished for doing so, and although arrests are rare, it is possible.

Chinese authorities do not mess around when it comes to enforcing online gambling laws, with most foreign online casinos and online betting sites being blocked in China and Chinese financial institutions blocking payments made for online gambling services. Chinese players can get around these blocks with the use of VPNs or by using anonymous payment methods like Bitcoin, but do face punishment if found gambling at an online casino site.

Online casinos accepting Chinese players

Despite China’s strict laws against online gambling, it remains big business in China. Many local operators illicitly continue to offer their services to Chinese players, although raids are common and these operators can cease services at the drop of a hat, making these sites very dangerous for players.

Offshore casino sites licensed by foreign jurisdictions also continue to accept Chinese players, with some even providing services in Chinese language. Although it is illegal for them to do so, their offshore status makes it difficult for authorities to police, which is why Internet blocks have been put in place.

With Chinese citizens facing punishment if found gambling online, we do not recommend doing so. Any Chinese resident who decides to ignore the laws and play at online casino sites is doing so at their own risk.

CNY deposit options

Given China’s strict stance against online gambling, it is very rare to find a licensed, regulated offshore casino site that accepts deposits using CNY. As explained above, Chinese banks are legally required to block payments made to online casinos, so depositing using traditional methods like credit cards, debit cards or bank transfers is off limits. Web wallet services may be an option, but many major providers like Neteller and Skrill do not allow Chinese accounts.

Players from China and other countries where online gambling is banned are starting to turn to cryptocurrency methods like Bitcoin to make payments online. These services are run on a peer-to-peer network without requiring the services of a centralised financial institution, making it possible to make anonymous transactions that can’t be blocked. While Bitcoin provides a much safer option for Chinese online gamblers, it is still illegal and penalties do apply for anyone found placing real money bets online.

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