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Gambling, Casinos, and Chinese

by Samuel Chong

Also see:

Chinese Casinos in Macau

On a trip to a casino in Las Vegas to witness the problems of gambling addiction first-hand, I easily made a disturbing observation: the majority of customers were Asian Americans, among them, most of them are Chinese. Moreover, the casinos seemed to especially cater to the population with Chinese bilingual dealers and other Asian targeted perks, and treated them nicely and with respect.

This is not only a typical scenario in Las Vegas, but also in casinos around the world where there is a Chinese population.  Although gambling is illegal in mainland China, many mainlanders find ways to gamble and to visit casinos either by traveling abroad to Macau or Las Vegas, or by gambling in private places or setting up underground gambling houses.

Why is gambling so popular among Chinese? 

First, gambling is considered an acceptable form of social activity.  Playing gambling games in friends or relatives' houses are socially acceptable and are welcomed in Chinese societies.  The smell of money makes Chinese people interested in playing these socially (but not legally) acceptable activities.  While engaging in these activities, Chinese people can make friends, engage in business transactions, sign deals, and form stronger bonds (hopefully) with players of the games.  (Yes, one or more of the players has to make a sacrifice)

Second, Chinese visit casinos for financial reasons.  For forty years under the rulings of the Communist Party, Chinese mainlanders could not find enough opportunities to make money by engaging in activities that Americans enjoy.  However, the inner urge of becoming more financially stable is deeply rooted in Chinese people's thousand-year history.  Gambling in casinos provides a "possible" way for these people to get rich quickly.  Gamblers need little connections (which is required to do business in China), and experience little red tapes.  Thus, they find ways to go to casinos.

Third, boredom is another major cause for the popularity of gambling among Chinese.  In modern China, there is a number of Chinese (majority of them are in Southern part of China), whom after the opening up of the market economy, became extremely rich.  However, the wives of these people's social activities are limited.  Thus, they turned their hobbies into gambling.  It is not uncommon to see many Chinese middle aged women to visit each others' houses to play Ma Jiang, a popular gambling game in China. 

Fourth, visiting casinos might help stressed business people or government officials to escape life's worries and difficulties.  Some might think that successful business people would not find time to visit casinos.  Unfortunately, not true for the Chinese.  A survey concludes that more than 90% of Chinese visitors to the United States make Las Vegas an ultimate stop for them.  Most of them have gambled frequently in Macau and Southeast Asia.  According to a private research, when asked to why they gamble, these successful Chinese business people or government officials (whose names are kept confidential) replied, "It's relaxing.  When I gamble, I don't worry about anything else".

Last,  gambling is, for Chinese as well as for others, a form of activity that creates excitement and challenge.  For games like Blackjack, there is always the possibility that you could outsmart the casinos.  Therefore, if no other challenges are present, playing these games in casinos becomes a natural alternative. 

Recently, Chinese people have begun to play casino games online.  For sites like "Golden Palace", having a Chinese version of their website is becoming the trend.  However, in mainland China, the government has been cracking down online gambling sites.

For us, we strongly discourage casino related gambling.  Should visitors feel the urge, they may wish to play slots machines free on the Internet.  This may keep you away from real casinos, and certainly, it will keep you away from losing money.

Note: We are strongly against any forms of gambling, as it has caused many misfortunes in Chinese families. 


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