Almost all of Asia is closed to casino gambling, yet from my study of gambling, ironically enough I have found that Asians are the world’s “best” gamblers. They gamble more, they are high rollers, and they enjoy gambling more than others. Casinos around the world rely upon the patronage they receive from Asian players. Over half of the money gambled in Britain’s 120 casinos comes from Chinese players. Las Vegas markets its high-stakes products to Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The card rooms in California are filled with Asian Americans.
Asians gamble the most, but why? In my travels to gaming establishments in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, and South America, I have found some explanations that seem plausible.
I have not seen many Asians among the “homeless” or “street people” of the large cities.  Poor Asians do not have to live on the streets. Asians have strong families, they have family businesses, and they work very hard. Asian people are active, their heads are raised upward, and they exude self-confidence. I even saw these qualities when I visited mainland China. Fifty years of Communist efforts to change human nature did not stymie energy inside the people. This may have relevance for gambling behavior.
You cannot be a “good gambler” unless you have a bankroll. You cannot afford to win unless you can afford to lose. A player needs staying power. When a player knows he or she can lose, he or she can play, and play to the limit. Many an Asian knows that if he or she loses enough to no longer own a house, there will still be a roof over his or her head. The extended family will take the gambler in and provide food and a job in a family business – perhaps a laboring job, but one he or she will be willing to do. The gambler knows that by working hard he or she can get ahead. Quite likely, the wealthy gambler was once a poor person, and through personal effort worked to the top. That can be done again, and the gambler’s confidence is not broken by gambling losses.
The manager of a London casino told me the story of a Chinese player who saw his fortune disappear with heavy gambling. Being totally broke, he was soon working in the kitchen of a cousin’s restaurant. A year later, he was managing the restaurant, and the next year he owned two restaurants. And he was back in the casino gambling high stakes. The downside of the equation is that the safety-net formula of family and self-confidence provides no inhibitions to stop forces that lead players into compulsive gambling.
Asians often gamble in groups, and they exude excitement in play. They believe the best thing is to win. The second best thing is to lose. The worst thing is not playing. Often at a roulette table they will shout loudly when one of the group wins. They will also shout loudly when the ball falls on a number that is next to the one played. Coming close is cause for cheering.
The players will come and leave in groups, and casino managers must be aware of this. The lesson was learned by one British casino manager confronted with a loud Asian player one night. After seeing that the player was annoying more staid “European” players, the manager tried to gently tell the player to be a little less excited during play. He noticed that the player was young and had had too much to drink. He told the bartender to serve him no more. After several increasingly less subtle warnings, the manager gave up and asked the bouncer to escort the player out of the premises. No sooner had this happened than a crowd of twenty players at six tables gathered their chips and went to the cage, cashed in, and left. Many were regulars, who were not seen for over a month. When the manager threw one of their group out, he threw the entire group out. The next time an incident occurred, the manager found an older gentleman among the group and told him that the casino would like the “loud” player to come back another evening to play, but in the meantime would like to buy the young man and his immediate party (of four) dinner in the adjacent restaurant. The older gentleman made all the arrangements and laughingly accompanied the young man to a very private corner booth in the restaurant. All were happy, and the Asian entourage continued their gambling merriment for several more hours – that night and the next.
Casino managers have offered additional explanations. The players may work in family businesses that operate until late hours. Because these businesses operate on a cash basis, the owner has cash receipts that can easily be brought to the casinos. Also, the owners and the employees have no other place to go (if they do not want to go straight home) at the hour they close their shops. They are like the dealers of Las Vegas with tip money in their pockets when the shift changes at 2 a.m. These people can meet their friends and enjoy camaraderie in the late hour (or 24-hour) gambling establishments.
Asian players are drawn to luck games. Eastern cultures emphasize the luck of certain numbers; persons born in certain years have lifetime luck.  One who has luck is urged to act upon the luck. Numerology and horoscopes are well respected. The players gravitate to games that depend on luck. Most Asians are not found at poker tables; they are not blackjack card counters, nor do they frequent craps tables that demand detailed concentration on various combinations of odds. Their calculation is a calculation to find one’s lucky number, not a calculation to minimize the house odds. Asians dominate the baccarat tables of Las Vegas. They favor pai gow and pai gow poker games and simple dice games such as sic bo.
I was astounded to find no fortune cookies during travels to central China. Most of the Chinese people with me had never heard of fortune cookies. But an older gentleman had. He told me that Chairman Mao had banned them. The people were supposed to get ahead by hard work, not by luck. The cookies were a bad influence. Mao did not want people to gamble. Everywhere I went, however, I saw people playing games. I never saw money being wagered, but I sensed the spirit was still there. Certainly their relatives around the world have the spirit.

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