Gambling And State Control In China

Gambling and State Control in China

It was a prevalent belief among many Chinese imperial rulers that gambling, and its addiction, resulted in serious social ills such as corruption, drugs and illegal secret societies. It is therefore not surprising to see strict regulations and control, if not a total ban, of gambling in China. Such strict regulatory control, including on gambling places and on similar activities, was implemented to prevent further social ills perceived to result from it, and thus maintain societal order.

Philosophy and education were the tools used by the imperial rulers to influence the commoners to perceive gambling with contempt. Confucius has been attributed with the saying, "A gentleman does not gamble," and this view point helped define the imperial regulations issued to contain betting in China. Addiction to gambling was depicted in the light of morality, rather than as a sickness or medical condition that the Western stand may take. Thus, someone addicted to betting would be painted as objectionable or unsavory, rather than as being sick or needing intervention.

Tracing back to the earliest ban on gambling in China leads to the Warring States period in the Wei Kingdom. The kingdom had different penalties for different offenders. Monetary fines were levied on the commoners while erring heirs to royal titles received a more severe penalty in the form of capital punishment such as caning. There was even the menace of losing succession rights for repeat offenders.

A national gambling ban was attempted during the Yuan, Ming and Qing regimes. Unlike the Wei Kingdom, they did not differentiate the offenders and leaned towards capital punishment for all. They went a little harder, though, as there were also threats of exile and execution. The attempt was not successful, however, as even the imperial officials were heavily into betting. By the end of the Qing dynasty, the rich merchants were also regulars in gambling dens.

A review would point to the early years of the People's Republic of China to the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's as the period when gambling in China seemed to be most successfully regulated.