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Casino culture: The legal differences between Asia and the West

Casino culture and gambling are popular pursuits all over the world. But for people in areas like Asia, there are severe limitations on placing bets, with many countries having strict anti-gambling legislation. 

But gambling laws may be slowly changing on the world’s largest continent given the large public demand and potentially huge taxation revenues to be reaped by governments. Still, there are some key cultural and legal differences when it comes to gambling in the west and in Asia.

This doesn’t mean that gambling is completely absent from Asia – Macau is a renowned world casino destination to rival Las Vegas and Monaco – but casinos are far from prevalent. Let’s take a look at those legal and cultural differences. 

Casino culture and gambling in the west

United States

Casinos are an iconic part of popular culture in the United States. The grand casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City immediately spring to mind, but online casino games are now wildly popular across the nation, and “Indian” casinos on Native American reservations – not regulated by state or federal law – are also popular options.

That’s not to say there aren’t restrictions – individual states regulate casinos in different ways, although only two states – Hawaii and Utah – have total bans on all forms of gambling. 


Europe is home to some exotic and classic casino locations, none more so than Monaco, the playground of the rich and famous.

Though the principality is home to the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, residents of Monaco are not allowed to set foot in it – only foreign visitors – this is because the casino was intended to bring money into the city rather than encourage gambling among the populace. 

Across the European continent, states are allowed to regulate gambling as they see fit. The UK, for example, is home to many legal casinos, and online casinos are immensely popular, as they are across most of Europe. 

The island nation of Malta, for example, is home to four major casinos for tourists to enjoy. They also regulate the majority of online casino licenses in the world – and online casinos are legal in most European nations. 

Casion Culture differences in Asia

Conversely, casinos are widely banned in most of Asia, although many people do find ways to gamble.

Extremely conservative views in some parts of the continent mean that casino gambling doesn’t exist, and is, in any case, illegal, but there are traditional non-casino games such as Mahjong and Pai Gow that are regularly played for a stake but at a local, unregulated level. 

That isn’t to say that casino gaming isn’t popular at all – even in a country like China where the government actively tries to stop all forms of gambling apart from the state lottery, the traditional ideas about fate, luck, and destiny in some ways lend themselves to placing bets. 

Casino gambling in Asia

China / Macau 

Casinos are illegal in mainland China, with heavy penalties for illegal operators. Online casino gambling is also illegal, and the government attempts to restrict it via the “Great Firewall of China”. However, many in the country play online with the use of VPNs to get around the ban. 

The rare place in China with legal casino gambling is the island of Macau, sixty kilometers west of Hong Kong. Macau is a global casino destination, with all the glamour, glitz, and atmosphere of Las Vegas, which aims to attract high-rolling professional gamblers rather than tourists and thrill-seekers who flock to Vegas and Atlantic City.

Despite its status, online casinos are actually banned in Macau, like in the rest of China, so visitors should be aware of the regulations – more information and advice about casinos is available in local languages on sites like Casino Tops Online


As a federal state, India allows gambling regulation to be handled on a regional level by local governments. Goa is the state most recognized for its casinos – four of them housed on boats. 

These floating casinos, situated on the Mandovi river, have been patronized for many years and offer a wide range of casino classics such as baccarat, blackjack, and roulette, as well as traditional Indian games. The other states with legal casinos are Daman and Sikkim. 

Online casino gambling is in its infancy in India, and falls into a legal gray area. However, while it isn’t technically legal, many Indians play casino games online without fear of prosecution. 

Other areas

Casinos are illegal in many other Asian countries. In much of Southeast, Asia casino culture are illegal, although there are moves to open up casinos for visitors rather than residents in Thailand and Vietnam. 

Stringent regulations exist in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, and of course North Korea, where anyone found gambling will be imprisoned, often with the rest of their family. 

There are some major differences both culturally and legally between Asia and the west when it comes to gambling. Visitors from the US and Europe should make sure they’re well-informed about regulations and customs before traveling.