Gambling became popular in China in the last phase of the imperial dynasty i.e. from 1644 to 1912. Canton, Macao, Shanghai and Hong Kong became the famous for their liquor and gambling. These areas inhabited foreigners, usually Americans, who were known to be rough. Moreover, majority of these inhabitants were males. Chinese natives indulged in gambling along with the foreigners.
Famous gambling games in China include Mah Jongg and Pai Gow.
Pia Gow consists of a bank having one woodpile. The banking duties are entrusted to one of the players. Other players are given four tiles of the woodpile, which they have to group in pairs of two such that the player’s pair should have a greater value than the bank. If the player succeeds then he wins the bet. A lot of money can exchange hands over this game.
Mah Jongg, meaning ‘sparrow’ is an ancient game which was developed primarily for the rich class of China. The game is said to have been invented by a fisherman to prevent sea sickness. It is said that the fisherman invented this game to distract the other fishermen from the surroundings, so that they do not feel sea sick in the middle of the sea. Later, a Chinese general heard of the game and engaged his soldiers in it at night to prevent them from falling asleep. The game underwent a lot of variations and every region called it with a different name. Finally, the game was standardized in early 1990s. the game consists of 136 to 144 tiles depending on the whether the players choose to play with flowers or seasons. The play resembles rummy except for the fact that the game is played with tiles. The game also uses a pair of dice and chips to keep the score. It requires four players, the aim of each being to obtain a set of tiles. The set types that are permitted are “kong”, “pung” and “chow”. A complete hand contains four sets and a pair of similar tiles. The fist one to have this combination of fourteen tiles wins.
Another game is Sci Bo, meaning ‘two dice’. This game is a betting game with players betting on the total of their dice. It is played with three dice. The bets include small bets that is the total may fall; between the range of four to ten, or big bets i.e. the total may fall between eleven to seventeen. The players shake the dice in a cup and keep the cup upside down with the dice hidden in the cup. Wagers are then made on the outcome. The player guessing the total can earn hugs sums. It is rumored that skilful players can predict the total by hearing the clanking of dice in the cup. In casinos the entire game is mechanized. Bets are placed on the number marked on the table. The dice are then shaken using a vibrating platform. The results are displayed on a screen. Other famous gambling games include Keno and Pachinko.
Despite the popularity of these gambling games, not all Chinese states are ready to legalize it. While Macao has legalized gambling, Shanghai carries it on illegally. In Hong Kong, only horse raising is legalized and The Hong Kong Jockey Club earns huge revenue.