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While Hong Kong is officially part of China now, it is still an autonomous region, and they still have their own laws and governance and therefore needs to be treated as a separate country for the purposes of this site, and the laws here are surely distinct from Mainland China, as is the case with Macau as well, another Chinese territory with distinct gambling laws.
Hong Kong is home to 7.2 million people packed into a little over 400 square miles and is one of the most densely populated regions of the world. It is also pretty wealthy as countries go with the 10th highest per capita GDP in the world. (1)
Gambling is very popular in Hong Kong and certain forms of gambling are permitted. The current gambling law here was passed in 1977 in an effort to look to curtail the rampant gambling that goes on here, and to prescribe only certain forms of it as legal. (2)
Over 80% of the adult population here is said to have engaged in gambling, which is a huge amount and shows just how widespread gambling is here. It’s not just widespread though, a lot of people here like to gamble and they like to gamble a lot. Most of the gambling in Hong Kong is said to occur online, although there are a lot of land based options as well, both legal and otherwise. (3)
Unlike Macau though, which is the casino capital of Asia, there are no legal casinos in Hong Kong, although Macau is only about 40 miles away and while you do need to take a ferry between the two regions, it only takes about an hour and then you can do all the casino gambling you want there. Hong Kong residents represent a large percentage of the patrons at Macau casinos in fact.
In addition to that, there are casino cruises that sail out of Hong Kong as well so you don’t have to wait until you make land to start gambling at a casino, you can do so as soon as the ship is out to see, away from Hong Kong’s laws banning casinos.
There’s also the underground gambling scene here as well, in addition to the legal options, and while poker isn’t considered to be legal here, mahjong certainly is, as is horse racing, and these are the two most popular forms of legal gambling here.
At one time all forms of gambling was illegal in Hong Kong but in 1950 they relented and allowed mahjong parlors to operate, and this still is widely played there today. Mahjong isn’t as popular as it once was when it dominated the gambling scene here, but there are still 60 mahjong clubs in operation in Hong Kong and they are licensed and regulated. (4)
Betting on horse racing is even more popular here, and it is also regulated by the Hong Kong government, and is run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who also take bets on other sporting events as well. Bets may be placed through approved channels only.
Social gambling is said to be legal here as well, and there’s actually some real dispute about whether poker is legal or not, even though it’s widely believed not to be.
The penalties for illegal gambling in Hong Kong are pretty harsh, with the first offense involving a fine of up to $10,000 HKD (about $1200 USD), and up to 3 months in jail, $20,000 HKD and up to 6 months in jail for the second offense, and $30,000 HKD and up to 9 months imprisonment for the third offense.
These penalties are made known widely to try to discourage people from engaging in gambling here, much more so than you see anywhere else.
Playing Poker in Hong Kong
Poker is very popular in Hong Kong, and up until 2010 a number of poker clubs operated here, in the belief that poker was legal as well as mahjong, so these clubs operated in the open until the police ended up shutting them down, and driving the poker clubs underground.
Again though, there is at least some uncertainty about whether poker is actually illegal here, but with potential jail time on the line, many players are leery of getting caught and this has had a big impact on the live poker scene here, although it still exists.
In a case that emerged after the crackdown, in 2011, 178 people were arrested for playing poker at a poker club here, and all ended up being acquitted of the charges by the court, and others charged with poker related offenses have had their charges dismissed as well. (5)
So there is definitely some question as to the legality of at least some types of poker games here, and it’s a grey area at best, and some claim that there is nothing in the law here that would prevent poker from being played legally. (6)
It is clear that home games are legal here, the question is what other forms are legal, and to some, the laws permitting mahjong would also apply to poker, but the authorities certainly don’t agree here.
Most of the poker in Hong Kong is played online though, and access to the internet is very widely available here, and while many sites do not accept players from Hong Kong, some do.
Hong Kong does not seek to block internet access to online gambling sites and online poker sites at this time, and there are no plans to do so. The government is definitely concerned with sports betting though, as this provides competition for the official sports betting platform, and online sports bettors also use offshore betting sites to evade tax, but poker does not appear to be a concern at this time. (7)
Players do need to be wary of the way they move money in and out of poker sites though as some types of financial transactions with gambling sites are blocked by the Hong Kong government, but using an internet wallet is a pretty easy way to get around this and provides a pretty easy way to fund your poker accounts and also receive withdrawals.
So online poker is quite popular here and they may have shut down the poker clubs, and you can still go to Macau where there is lots of live poker available, but on the other hand nothing beats the convenience of playing right at home on your computer.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players from Hong Kong
Some of our top online poker sites sadly do not take players from Hong Kong, but we’re happy to tell you that 2 out of our top poker sites do, and they are both well worthy of your checking out. You’ll also get rewarded with welcome bonuses to try each of them out for the first time.
PPI Poker is the least picky of our top picks and are happy to offer play to online players from Hong Kong as well. You may not have heard of PPI Poker before but they are probably the best OVERALL site for players from ANY country in Asia right now.
They also offer rakeback to all of its players and have the lowest deposit fees of any room on the GG Network. I love this particular site because was founded by poker players and like-minded iGaming professionals and they’re really looking to make their mark in the Asian online gambling ecosystem and Europe as well.
Party Poker accepts players from this locale as well, despite being known for restricting a lot of other countries in Asia. They’ll ship you a free bonus just for signing up and trying out their software, which I must say is one of the best platforms in the industry right now, behind only PokerStars and 888 Poker.
1. Hong Kong