The Rise of Illegal Baccarat in China

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Illegal Baccarat China

Baccarat was once stereotyped as a game for wealthy high rollers. The typical baccarat scene included men and women dressed in evening wear, making $100 bets in roped-off areas.

However, baccarat’s image has changed greatly within recent years. Mini baccarat—a low-stakes version that features a blackjack-sized table—has made the game more popular than ever.

Chinese gamblers are a big reason why baccarat has changed so much. Gamblers from the mainland flood tables in countries around the globe.

Unfortunately, though, the same players can’t even enjoy baccarat in their own country. This situation has created a large illegal baccarat market in China.

I’m going to discuss more on the Chinese love of baccarat along with the underground culture that this game has inspired.

Chinese Gamblers Like Baccarat for Multiple Reasons

Baccarat offers several advantages to Chinese gamblers. Below, you can see their favorite reasons for playing this game and why they’re willing to float the law to do it.

Great Odds

Baccarat offers you one of the best chances to win in the casino. You can reduce the house adds to just 1.06% by making the right wager.

The three main available baccarat wagers include:

  • Banker bet – 1.06% house edge
  • Player bet – 1.24%
  • Tie bet – 14.36% (w/ 8-to-1 payout) or 4.84% (w/ 9-to-1 payout)

The banker bet may not seem very attractive at first glance when considering that the house takes a 5% commission out of wins. But even with this 5% commission, it still only features a 1.06% house edge—one of the lowest in the casino.

The player bet also gives you a decent chance to win with its 1.24% house advantage. It’s a nice alternative if you ever get tired of wagering on the banker hand every time.

You can obviously see that the tie bet is absolutely terrible. It’s really bad when 8-to-1 payouts are involved and still not worthwhile with 9-to-1 payouts.

In any case, baccarat offers an excellent chance to win thanks to the banker bet. You’ll be using perfect strategy as long as you stick with this wager.

Based on Luck

Asian gamblers enjoy casino games that involve a large degree of luck. They feel that they can win lots of money if good fortune is on their side.

Blackjack isn’t quite as big in Eastern casinos as it is in Western gambling establishments. Chinese players don’t typically love using an abundance of strategy when playing.

They like the simple approach that baccarat offers with only having to make the banker wager each time. From here, they combine a low house with elements of luck to boost their chances of winning.

Heavily Involves the Number 8

Eight is an extremely lucky number in Chinese culture. It essentially translates to wealth and prosperity.

Therefore, the Chinese are always looking to incorporate it into all walks of life–especially gambling. Baccarat prominently features the number eight as one of its best scores.

As you may know, an eight or nine on the first two cards is referred to as a “natural.” The player or banker hand automatically wins when it has an eight or nine, and the other side doesn’t have a matching or better score.

Of course, nine is slightly better than eight by baccarat rules. But Asian gambler still appreciates the fact that eight is the second-best score.

Baccarat Is Illegal in China

China takes a very strict approach to gambling. They only allow national lotteries and sports betting lotteries. Everything else is considered illegal, especially casino games like baccarat.

Of course, Macau, a special administrative area of China, features dozens of casinos. It also pulls in more gambling revenue than any other location in the world.

The problem with Macau, though, is that it’s on the country’s southeast coast. Much of the population isn’t within reasonable driving distance of this gambling mecca.

As a result, some Chinese gamblers fly to other nations to enjoy casino gaming. This is the big reason why so many international gambling establishments feature games that are specifically dedicated to Asian players.

Mahjong, sic bo, and baccarat all fit into this category. The latter is especially a hit among Chinese players who travel abroad.

Underground Casinos Now Meet the Demand

You can see that baccarat isn’t very accessible to the average Chinese citizen. Of course, not everybody can afford to hop on a plane to Las Vegas, Macau, or Singapore.

Underground casinos have arisen to satisfy the country’s gambling urge. They often operate discreetly in the back of businesses that serve as fronts.

Of course, sometimes these underground casinos do get busted. But with no legal competition, these rogue casinos are extremely popular. The demand for them doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon either.

China does feature extremely strict anti-gambling laws. Therefore, those that run underground gambling establishments face heavy risk when doing so.

Even the gamblers themselves face jail time and fines by floating the law. That said, most participants and especially operators try to keep these illegal casinos hush-hush.

Illegal Online Baccarat Is Also Popular

China’s draconian gambling laws also extend to the internet. The federal government bans all forms of online gambling.

Chinese citizens aren’t permitted to play online baccarat and another casino games. Nevertheless, they have plenty of access to this type of gaming.

Some developers, including Bodog and Realtime Gaming (RTG), are willing to serve this country. Located far away in Caribbean countries, these software providers feel comfortable supplying Chinese-facing internet casinos.

The result is that China not only has access to online baccarat, but also poker, sports betting, and esports gambling. Anybody who’s afraid to visit a local underground casino can simply hop online and play games.

China is currently working on a national cryptocurrency that would allow them to better track citizens’ habits. That have a stronger chance at stamping illegal internet gaming is a result.

For now, though, citizens are still able to make deposits using credit cards (when they go through), prepaid cards, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. That said, this illegal gaming market seems likely to carry on into the foreseeable future.

Is It Safe to Play Baccarat in China?

No legal baccarat options exist on the mainland. The only legal routes for playing the game include heading to Macau or Hong Kong.

Underground casinos and illegal gambling sites are much more available to the entire country. The underground establishments are dangerous, but they gave Chinese residents a chance to play the game live.

Chinese gaming sites are easy to pull up on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Plus, the government doesn’t seem to have this option under wraps.

If you’re looking to play baccarat on the mainland as safely as possible, you should stay away from underground venues. Chinese authorities are quick to raid these unlawful casinos whenever possible.

Your best bet is to look for online baccarat when in China. At least in this case, you stand very little chance of being caught and arrested.


Chinese gamblers love baccarat due to its heavy luck-based elements and low house edge. Therefore, they don’t seem discouraged by the fact that this game is illegal on the mainland.

Some players head to nearby gambling destinations, like Macau and Hong Kong. Wealthier high rollers may even head to Australia, Singapore, or Las Vegas.

But these destinations aren’t easily accessible to the entire country. Therefore, some gamblers opt for underground casinos and/or unlawful gambling sites.

Neither of these options is ideal when it comes to enjoying the game. Nevertheless, illegal casinos and gambling sites at least offer opportunities to play baccarat in China.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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