Gambling in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is an autonomous territory located on the Pearl River Delta of China. It is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Reading between the lines of that title tells more of the level of autonomy Hong Kong may or may not enjoy two decades after returning to Chinese control after 156 years of governance by the British.
Operating under the principle of “one country, two systems”, as Macau does, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China – but it is not free of Beijing’s control when the mainland decides to assert influence with threats and actual intervention in the face of dissent. Even so, Hong Kong has its own currency (HK$), unique history, passports, government, and laws.
There are over 7 million people of mixed nationalities residing on the 427 square mile island, making it the 4th most densely populated territory or sovereign state in the world. It is also a significant world finance center.
Hong Kong Gambling Law
Gambling law in Hong Kong is relatively straight forward. Social gaming such as Mahjong as well as other tile games and even dice games are permitted in certain establishments as long as they don’t derive income or promote the pastime. Poker operated under this exception until 2010 when police made it clear there was no exception for poker.
Other Gambling in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been granted a monopoly on all other forms legal gambling. Proceeds from sports betting (football) horse racing, and the local lottery are funneled back into the community. In 2015/2016 the HKJC contributed over HK$26 billion making it one of the top ten charitable organizations in the world.
Horse Racing in Hong Kong
Sha Tin Racecourse opened in 1978 and can hold as many as 85,000 people for big events. The record for attendance was set in 2007, when 60,000 people attended races on September 9. There are over 470 races held there every year.
Happy Valley Racecourse originally opened in 1845 and now has the capacity for 55,000. Races are held on Wednesday nights and open to the public. Football, hockey, and rugby games are held on the inner field.
Hong Kong Lottery
Tthe HKJC also conducts the Mark 6 Lottery. Lottery tickets, horse racing bets, and football bets can all be placed online.
Hong Kong Sports Betting
HKJC Football is positioned among the top sports betting services in the world with annual bets exceeding US$6.5 billion, roughly equal to $1,000 each for every inhabitant. Even in the face of illegal offshore betting sites the HKJC consistently manages over 15% gross profit every year.
Casino Cruise Ships
Although casino cruise ships are not allowed to offer games while in Hong Kong territorial waters, the business is booming with dozens of excursions departing established terminals like those in Tsim Sha Tsui and Hung Hom daily. Meanwhile the new HK$6.6 billion Kai Tak Cruise Terminal looks like a ghost town. The lack of commerce at the new terminal and reported ties between organized crime and casino cruise ships foretell an intervention by Beijing at almost any time. As of July 2017, no such action has taken place.
Ferries from Hong Kong to Macau
As Hong Kong citizens can freely travel to Macau and there are four ferry routes open between the two special administrative districts offering nearly 160 sailings every day, over half a million people travel to Macau via Hong Kong every month. It usually takes less than an hour to get from one SAR to the other.