Gambling is an activity Mao denounced as "a bad social custom that arose out of the rotten political environment of the landlord class". Before liberation in Shanghai, the Chinese capital of vice, a man could lose his house, business and wife at a gambling table just by one night. When the communists took power in 1949, they imposed the ban and implemented it with more rigor and severity. The tough measures worked well in the Maoist era when people led collective lives, under the scrutiny of their neighbors, and had little spare money. They gambled at home as a recreation, but the sums involved were modest. When I was young, cricket fighting was a common game with gambling nature.
But things have changed since 1980s, as incomes rose, social controls diminished and people lived away from the family home and local street committee. Gambling of various kinds has revived.
Two sayings are to the point. One is that a man becomes bad as he is rich while a woman becomes rich as she is bad and the other is that a man’s addiction of gambling is worse than another man’s constant womanizing. A number of rich people here tend to pick up some bad habits quickly after they become rich, turning greedy, arrogant, and fond of gambling and adultery.
When cards and mahjong are all over the places in China, people lose/win tons of money on them every day. There are cards and mahjong parlors with nothing but tables full of people playing for money. If the police come around there is no mention of money, it is all for fun. They use cards or betting chips in place of money to "fool" the cops. People here call going to play mahjong "going to work".
Gambling, as a habit that is part of the national psyche, is deep-rooted in Chinese tradition and fascinating games can be obscured by the gambling culture. Chess and snooker games are turned into gambling machines. Even China’s Super League (soccer) plunged into a crisis after being hit by match-fixing and gambling allegations.
Slot machines can often be seen in small stores in Shanghai’s suburbs, where police are less likely to find them. If police do find a slot machine, it will be confiscated and the store owner fined.
Gambling also goes international. A lot of tourists from Chinese Mainland frequent casino overseas. And some of them do put on big bets, many of them embezzled funds from government agencies and banks. There are offices and representatives of overseas casinos in China which is a market with huge potentials. Chinese gamblers usually bet large amounts, intensely concentrate and some may be able to play without stopping for three days and nights, eating only instant food and not leaving their seats.
Internet gambling is emerging and spreads widely, with improved technology making payment by credit card or bank transfer easier. Compared to traditional gambling, online gambling costs less and is more difficult to detect. Most online cases involve soccer gambling. Because of its convenience and high profit, it has attracted many punters.
Government lotteries started in 1987. The government also gave its blessing to "sports lotteries" which allow aficionados to wager on European football matches or NBA basketball games. While many official lotteries are open to the public, there are a few unofficial ones as well. Many people trust that Chinese stock market is the largest casino of all.