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China online sports betting laws

Officially, online sports betting in the world’s most populous nation is restricted to government-run outlets. Many people in China are content to run the small risk involved in wagering with the numerous overseas-based websites that are happy to offer Chinese sports betting opportunities to this potentially lucrative audience.

Is sports betting legal in China?

China can claim to be the cradle of betting. Gambling houses were widespread here before anywhere else in the world. However, ever since the Communist Party came to power in 1949, all forms of gambling in China have been illegal for the nation’s 1.5 billion residents. There are, though, some exceptions to this rule. Some forms of gambling are allowed in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau – though even here, sports betting is strictly limited.

In China itself, the only form of sports betting allowed is via the state-run China Sports Lottery. Set up in 1994, this originally offered the opportunity to wager only on soccer and basketball . The options have since been widened to allow bets on hockey, handball, table tennis, badminton, volleyball and water polo.

The amounts wagered through the China Sports Lottery are extraordinary. In the first four months alone of 2021, revenue was reported as 68.47 billion yuan – about $10.6billion. The size of the potential market here is simply too enormous for sportsbooks based outside China to resist, and many of the most established names in the international betting arena make their odds available to people inside China.

In response, the government monitors online activity closely and shuts down access to websites that it finds offensive – an activity known locally as the ‘Great Firewall of China’. At the end of 2020, it was reported that an average of 11 million Chinese every day were taking part in online gambling. At this time, China reported that it had shut more than 2,200 illegal gambling firms and warned its citizens against engaging in online betting.

However, the risk to individual bettors of getting into trouble with the law is extremely low. Having said that, extreme discretion is advised if you want to place a bet with an offshore sportsbook. The risk of a site being blocked is ever-present, so it is best to use a website licensed in a respected territory, and access should be gained through a VPN (virtual private network) to ensure your activity is anonymous.

What odds format is used in China?

Decimal odds

When you play on the China Sports Lottery – the only fully legal option for sports betting in mainland China – you will see the odds expressed in the decimal format. This is the most common odds format used around the world; it is popular in Europe and Australasia, as well as the parts of Asia where sports betting is allowed.

For instance, if you believe the Chinese basketball team will win their next match, the odds about that outcome might appear as 2.5. This means that for every $10 you stake, you will get back $25 if the team are triumphant.

Decimal odds are simpler to follow than other formats that do not account for the fact that your stake is returned as part of your winnings. The same bet and outcome expressed in fractional odds, which are used in the UK and Ireland, would be 6/4; in moneyline odds, which are popular in North America, it would be +150.

Top sports in China


It has been estimated that more than 300 million people play basketball recreationally in China. China basketball has boomed in recent years, assisted by the achievements of Yao Ming, the Shanghai-born center who starred for the Houston Rockets between 2002 and 2011 and was an eight-time NBA all-star. The NBA itself attracts huge attention in China, as does the Chinese basketball equivalent, the CBA.

However, the Chinese basketball national side has yet to make an impact at the top level. Although China regularly tops the overall Olympic medal table, neither the men’s nor the women’s team has ever won basketball gold. Nevertheless, the fact that the sport is available to bettors on the China Sports Lottery helps to maintain its high profile here.

China sports betting FAQs

Is betting legal in China?
Is online gambling legal in China?
What is the most popular sport in China?