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Gambling Around the World

In the United States, gambling is generally only legal in certain cities under certain conditions. But how does this compare to other countries? Gambling is surprisingly universal, however different cultures treat the act of gambling in very unique ways. 


Although you may think of Las Vegas, Nevada when you think of gambling, you’ll be shocked to discover that Macao, China surpassed it years ago in terms of gambling revenue (way back in 2007). This is probably not that surprising when you consider that Macao is the only city where it is legal to gamble in China, besides state run lotteries similar to those run in the US. Macao currently has 24 casinos.

Gambling has long been a prominent feature of the Chinese culture, and is often seen as an investment rather than a source of entertainment, thus leading to many people using it to flaunt their wealth. The government has tried to issue propaganda to lower the number of gamblers in the country, but because of previous propaganda which has gone the other way, it has had little to no effect. One of the most common forms of gambling in China, outside of the city of Macau, is betting on horse races and other sporting events.


In general, the Australians love gambling. A recent survey found that 70% of Australians gamble at least once per year. Lottery and scratch off tickets are the most popular form of gambling, followed by table games, and then slot machines. Historically, Australians have been known to gamble frequently on games of dice and there are also still those who engage in them, and other chance-based games, today. This isn’t as surprising when you consider the origins of the country as an island for British criminals in exile.

Unlike their Chinese counterparts, who seem to enjoy traveling to Macao, most Australians prefer to gamble from the comfort of their own home, which has become even more convenient thanks to the rise of online gaming sites. Sports gambling is also popular in Australia, but only prior to the game beginning, as once the game has already started, Australians prefer to sit back and enjoy the show. 

United Kingdom

Just like China, gambling has very deep roots in the country of England, especially games of chance like those played with dice. In ancient times, it was actually believed that you could use dice as a form of communication with the gods, thus making gambling somewhat of a divine pastime. 

Gaming has never been illegal in the UK, and has simply shifted in forms over the years. In the middle ages, men began to prefer games of skill over games of chance as they wanted something that was slightly more guaranteed. Later on, however, it became more commonplace to place outlandish bets on skills you could or could not perform. For example, a man might bet his neighbor that he can’t ride a horse backward for 100 miles or something similar. He would then complete the feat and win the money. This led to betting being considered an actual profession in the UK for hundreds of years.

Currently, there are 9,128 betting shops which operate legally in the UK. More than 50% of the adult population in the country gambles regularly. Unlike the US, which is having trouble enticing young gamblers into casinos, the fastest growing demographic of UK gamblers is that of those in the 18-24 age bracket. The most popular forms of betting in the UK are horse race and sports betting, as well as slot machines. 


Japanese gaming has a very unique culture based on something known as the game of Pachinko. Pachinko is a game which is similar to pinball, but it contains multiple balls. Players try to score as many balls as possible. Interestingly enough, these balls themselves are what is won, and then players can later trade these balls for cash or other prizes. Because of this process, and the fact that money is not won “automatically” Pachinko is not considered gambling by the Japanese government and is rather classified as “recreation.” This game alone, which is often played in game specific Pachinko Parlors, generates over twice the revenue than that of Japan's auto industry.

Although Pachinko is the supreme form of gambling in Japan, the Japanese also enjoy betting money in games of mahjong, as well as betting on sports and horse races. This is all done illegally however, as there is currently a ban on gambling in the country of Japan. But this doesn’t bother the citizens much, because besides Pachinko, the Japanese are generally resistant to the idea of gambling on a cultural level. 


Italians have loved placing their money on the line since back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire. In the years since, the country has been credited with the invention of backgammon boards as well has gambling centered houses which later paved the way for casinos. Italians especially enjoy engaging in skill-based bets, over those based on chance (though they will often engage in both). Italy currently has 4 casinos, but a number of its citizens prefer to take part in the online casinos which are legal in the country. 

Since 2006, betting on the outcomes of video games has come to be the most popular form of gambling in Italy. In fact, the revenues made from the video terminals which allow these types of bets makes up 54% of the gaming revenue in the country. 


The Irish love to play the lottery, and over 44% of their adult population plays the national lottery on a weekly basis—talk about hoping for the luck of the Irish! As far as other types of gambling go, public casinos are illegal in Ireland—but private casinos aren’t! This means that if you live in Ireland, you’re welcome to open your own gaming establishment offering the same games you might come across in one of the casinos in Vegas. Although this may seem strange, when you consider the fact that most of the country is farmland (and most of the residents are involved in the farm business in some manner) this makes sense as private, local casinos keep them from having to travel to gamble. This is also why online gaming has recently seen a soar in Ireland. 

Not much is known about the history of gambling in Ireland, as much of it has been in non-official manners. Either way, it’s been around a long time, and it’s likely to continue much in the same way. 

Various African Countries

Until recently, a number of African countries lacked the infrastructure to host casinos, and some still do. The regulations surrounding casinos on the continent are difficult to follow, as often times there are wars over land and other disputes which are still unresolved.  However, there are a number of countries where gambling is legal, and this is often reflected in the large number of casinos in that country. There are currently 54 countries on the continent, 34 of which have some sort of legalized gaming. Culturally, Africans don’t tend to gamble much, and as a result, most of the casinos are in cities known for high tourist populations. South Africa is the country with the most casinos at 59, followed by Kenya with 30, and the third place is held by Zimbabwe with 22 casinos. 

Of course, these aren’t all the countries in the world, but these are some where gambling is especially prevalent. Either way, before you travel, check the local gaming rules and customs before you go! And good luck!

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