Gambling is Achilles’ heel for the Chinese, an unshakable vice that’s managed to persevere despite centuries of government curtailment, social ostracism, and havoc it’s wrecked. It’s kind of like the drinking problem that some places have. You can say what you will, tax what you will, legislate what you will: it ain’t going away.
So with that in mind, I’m not sure the prevalence of underground gambling outfits in China is not so much a “secret problem”, as it is a pestering nag that’s next to impossible to stamp out.
Besides, with accessible international travelling, and with the largest gambling city in the world – Macau (with revenues higher than Vegas) only a ferry ride away from the mainland and Hong Kong, enforcements seem more window-dressing than anything else. Because people will just go off-shore.
On a cultural level, gambling is deeply ingrained in the Chinese psyche.
“Gambling is a big part of Chinese human nature,” said Hu Xingdou, economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “Trying to ban it completely is just not going to happen. China also loses an incredible amount of money overseas every year.”
Numerology, superstition and a get-rich-quick mentality are deeply ingrained in the world’s most populous country, particularly in rural areas, sociologists say, and they find expression in gambling.
Century-long traditions are hard to do away with.
“Chinese are the biggest gamblers in the world,” said Hu, the economics professor. “Thousands of years under an imperial system that tries to keep people down leads to a mentality of trying to become super-rich overnight, preferably without the hard work.”