Gambling Law of Chinese Mainland
There are many forms of legal gambling in China mainland including lottery, sports betting, scratch cards, rapid draw games such as Keno, and virtual lottery terminal games similar to slots. While under China Gambling Law Mahjong betting is not allowed, this is barely enforced. The ban on Chinese Betting sites is enforced but only so by internet censorship. In this article I will ignore those latter aspects and focus on fully allowed gambling.
Chinese Sports Lottery has a monopoly on all forms of legal sports betting in Mainland China. Their major focuses are the sports basketball, football (soccer) and baseball. This includes nearly every league from all over the world. NBA basketball, MLB baseball, English Premier League (EPL) and Spain’s La Liga are major draws.
With sports lottery there are multiple ways to bet sports. One is pari-mutuel based and is more lottery like due the difficultly of win. Taking Football Lottery (足球彩票) as an example the main games are betting pools where 65% of ticket sales are paid out to winners up to the maximum payout per person for each game (usually RMB 5 million). Dividends are declared per yuan wagered.
The main football lottery involves selecting home, away or draw in 14 football matches. All correct pays the jackpot and 13 correct pays 30% the declared jackpot (up to the maximum allowed for each). Optional Nine (任选九) works the same but only 9 games are selected and only all correct is the winner. Two other popular games are 6-selection half-time/full-time (this called Bàn quán chǎng -半全场) and a 4-selection correct score game (this is called Jin Qiucai – 进球彩) which is now the most popular form of football betting in China mainland.
The other ways Chinese Sports lottery is bet are single match (straight bets) and single field betting (our term for accumulators / parlays). These are very popular options for betting basketball and baseball especially for NBA. To give an idea of the odds Euro basketball point spreads are generally offered at 1.70 per side (100 staked wins 70 profit) and NBA is 1.75 (100 staked wins 75 profit).
It is also important to understand that even with single match and single field (accumulators) the odds are not fixed. If you bet at 1.75 but the odds close at 1.82 you end up with better odds. If you bet at 1.75 and it moves to 1.70 you end up with worse odds. Bets are paid based on where the odds close. While this could be advantageous to the bookmaker, really they are simply looking to balance the action and adjust the odds appropriately. When the match starts it is clear what the odds are.
As far as purchasing tickets there are many channels. Betting shops can be found spread all over most cities. Also, Beijing, Tianjin, and Guangdong have approved online betting and now run it through major internet companies that receive 1% of the betting turnover. Players from all over China can use these sites and deposit with AliPay, PayPal and YeePay. Due to transaction fees and the number of shops available, betting in person remains far more popular.
There are two companies that provide lottery in China and both are state owned. I have included a photo that shows a shop of each. The top photo is Chinese Sports Lottery which has shops nationwide that look similar to betting shops found in the UK. The bottom photo is a China Welfare Lottery shop. While there are some nicer shops, many of these are simply stands or corner type markets similar to Asian-style convenience stores.
The Chinese Sports Lottery employs over 300,000 people and is very visible in China. They offer traditional number lotteries, scratch cards, sports betting lotteries, single match sports bets, and terminals for betting virtual sport. The welfare lottery offers the exact same less sports betting and plus rapid draw games similar to Keno and slots. A main difference of each is where the money goes.
The profit from the sports lottery goes towards development of sport in our county. The welfare lottery goes toward public welfare and the amounts it has donated are massive. Having started in 1987, over its first 25-years the welfare lottery has distributed RMB 253 billion (USD $40.3b) to designated charities and various relief efforts. The bulk of this has come in recent years as legal gambling in Chinese mainland is experiencing rapid growth (2012 had 2.7 times the profit of 2008).
Another difference is sports lottery tends to appeal to younger people, while welfare lottery is popular with older Chinese – though not without plenty of crossover for each. Both are very big lotteries when compared to legal gambling by country. In 2012 Sports Lottery generated RMB 110.5b (USD $17.6b) in profit and Welfare Lottery generated more at RMB 151b (USD $24.1b) in profit. In this article I cover the products offered by each but first I briefly discuss Chinese lottery culture.
Chinese Lottery Culture
There is probably no country in the world that takes draw lottery more serious than China. We have entire businesses built around this such as e-books on how to predict results and software used to track and predict numbers. A lot of the tracking is also offered for free. In many stores and shops entire walls are filled with charts (similar to massive baccarat score cards). Even the government’s own website produces charts.
Some Chinese believe in lottery poetry which is known here as Qiúqiān (求籤). They will light firecrackers at the temple in preparation and then use bamboo sticks to communicate with the gods. On the bottom of the poetry lottery number selections can be found along with their fortune. Such practice is much more a part of Gambling in Thailand, and done more in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong than in mainland China. It still does exist here plenty though – especially in our most populated province Guangdong. Other Chinese don’t necessarily believe lottery results are divine, but rather that patterns can be used to predict results.
Number Game Lotteries
There are two types of number draw lotteries in China – scheduled draws which take place either daily, weekly or multiple times per week – and rapid draw games which take place every certain number of minutes. In total these combine to offer about 100 different variations because the offerings differ by province. In this section I will cover just the most popular nationwide games when discussing scheduled draws.
Welfare Lottery – Scheduled Number Draw Lotteries
The welfare lottery has several provincial draws and a special one only for Eastern China. However it is the three covered below that account for the largest volume. Each is offered nationwide and costs ￥2 per play.
- Union Lotto (双色球) – also known as colour ball, has been the main lottery of China since it began in February 2003. The draw is every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The game requires picking 6 red ball numbers (1-33) and one blue ball number from (1–16). 6+1 pays the jackpot up to ￥10 million and 6+0 pays 30% of the jackpot. There are also fixed prizes. 5+1 pays ￥3000, 5+0 and 4+1 pay ￥200, 4+0 and 3+1 pay ￥10 and 2+1, 1+1 and 0+1 pay ￥5.
- The Seven (七乐彩) – is drawn every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:30pm. It is played by selecting 7 numbers (1-30). The lotto draws 8 numbers (the additional one is called the extra number or half-number). The jackpot is divided as 70% for 7+0 | 20% for 6+1 | 10% for 6+0 | up to a maximum of ￥5 million. The fixed odds prizes are 5+1 RMB200, 5+0 RMB50, 4+1 RMB10 and 4+0 RMB5.
- 3D Lottery – is the China Welfare Lottery’s simplest game. Just pick 3 numbers (0-9) and decide how you want to play at a cost of ￥2 per. If you play all three exact you are paid ￥1000 if you win. If you play 3-box which means one of your numbers is duplicated (ex: picking 599 wins on 599, 959, and 995) you are paid ￥320 on a win. If you box three unique numbers you are paid ￥160 if those number appear in any order.
In 2012 our welfare lottery generated RMB 108.4b (USD $17.3b) in net win on number lotteries which was a 19.5% increase from the previous year. This however also includes rapid draw lotto as discussed below.
Welfare Lottery – Rapid Draw Games
Our many rapid draw games take place every 5, 10, or 30 minutes depending on game and are available all over China. Many are exactly the same or are very similar to Keno, which is known in Macau as Bái gē piào, Pa Ka Pio or Pacapio depending who is spelling it. The variants of rapid draw differ by province. Two of the most popular offered in Beijing are Happy 8 (快乐8) and PK Pickup (PK拾).
Happy 8 is progressive Keno. There are 80 numbers (1-80) of which 20 are drawn. You can play 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 numbers. However many you play has a different pay table as shown on this 快乐8 page. As that page is Chinese, but readable, note that all correct in the 10 number game reads 最高500万 – this means up to 5 million yuan – as that spot is a progressive payout. The table linked shows the payouts per ￥2 wagered and new games start every 5 minutes.
PK Pickup (PK拾) is betting on simple virtual races that take place every 5 minutes. Each racer is numbered 1-10. On the lottery card you can select the exact order of finish for first, first two, first three etc. all the way to predicting the exact order of all 10. The same as keno each number of selections has a different payout based on how many spots are correct which can be found on this 北京PK拾 page . The smaller paytable shown is for 3 additional games of Precise Betting (精确投注) where payouts are only made if you are exactly correct on top finishers. The pay table linked reflects the dividends per ￥2 staked.
Again, in 2012 rapid draw games and schedule draw games of welfare lottery combined for RMB 108.4b (USD $17.3b) in net gambling win.
Sports Lottery – Scheduled Number Draw Lotteries
As mentioned earlier the sports lottery does not only offer sports betting. It is called the sports lottery simply because its profits benefit sports. Its five main scheduled number draw lotteries are covered below.
- Super Lotto (超級大樂透) was first launched in 2007 and is the richest lottery in China. Tickets costs ￥2 per play (or ￥3 play for Super Plus which gives a higher max payout) and drawings are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The game involves selecting 5 numbers (1-35) and 2 numbers (1-12). The top prizes are 75% jackpot for 5+2, 20% for 5+1 and 5% for 5+0. There are also fixed odds prizes. 4+2 and 4+1 pay ￥3000 and ￥600 respectively. 4+0 or 3+2 pays ￥100, 3+1 and 2+2 pay ￥10 and 3+1, 1+2, 2+1 and 0+2 pay ￥5. The top prize is progressive and can reach RMB 10m when playing a ￥2 stake or RMB 16m when playing a ￥3 stake.
- Lotto 5/22 (22选5) is a daily lottery game drawn Monday-Sunday. It is very easy to play, just pick 5 numbers 1-22 at a cost of 2 yuan per ticket. If you get all correct you win the jackpot which is shared with all winners. 4 correct pays 50 yuan and 3 correct pays 5 yuan.
- Seven Star Lottery (七星彩) – is a ￥2 per play lottery drawn every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday evening that involves selecting 7 numbers (0-9). All correct pays 90% of the jackpot, and first 6 or last six pays 10%. If anywhere on your ticket you get five in consecutive order you win ¥1800, four anywhere in consecutive order ¥300, three anywhere in consecutive order ¥20, and two anywhere in consecutive order ¥5.
- P5 – This is a ￥2 per play play lotto drawn every night where you pick 5 numbers 0-9. If all are correct you get paid ￥100,000. There are no smaller prizes.
- P3 – This is the exact same game as 3D lotto already covered on this page with the same payouts. Just this version is offered by the sports lottery.
In 2012 number draws of Chinese Sports Lottery profited RMB 65.6b (USD $10.5b) which was a 26.2% increase from the previous year. This accounted for 59.4% of their annual profit. Again case in point, they are called the sports lottery because their profits benefits sports.
Instant Lottery – Scratch Cards
Both the Chinese Sports Lottery and China Welfare Lottery offer instant scratch card games. These cost anywhere from RMB5 to RMB30 per ticket and there are many different variations. In the image shown, the ones on the top are from the welfare lottery. In case you are interested in a Baidu image search to see more these are called Fúcǎi jí kāipiào (福彩即开票). The Sports lottery version is called dǐng guā guā (頂呱刮) and the ones on the bottom are their very popular NBA themed scratch cards. In 2012 sports lottery generated RMB 18b and welfare lottery 20.2b in scratch card win. That’s a combined RMB 38.2b (USD $6.1b) profit.
Video lottery Terminal (VLT)
Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) are computer based gambling games. They function similar to slot machines in that most are standalone machines with a random number generator (RNG) used to generate results. Here we have many different games. Some are merely virtual scratch cards, others actually are slot games, some involve a slight level of skill and others are used to bet virtual sport.
One of the most exciting virtual sport games is Lucky Racing. This was developed in a partnership with AG Tech and the UK bookmaker Ladbrokes. It involves extremely high quality Formula 1-style virtual races. It provides players with computer generated stats on the circuit, race cars and drivers. After making bets, punters watch an invigorating computer-generated race with life-like graphics play out on the terminal screen. This is very realistic and has become one of the most popular VLTs in China.
In 2012 VLTs generated our lotteries RMB 22.423b (USD $3.57b) in profit – a 31.8% increase from the previous year. This is a number that should continue to grow. In 2011 only Hebei Province and Tianjing had VLTs widespread. In these locations their betting shops practically resemble slot parlours as VLTs are packed into many shops. Currently our government is watching the social impact of these machines, and has slowly introduced them to more provinces.