Difference between Western and Chinese gamblers

  width =In Dutch casinos, the Chinese gamblers stand out. They are in the majority. You see Chinese gamblers in casinos all over the world. Chinese people love the game, it seems. But what are the differences and similarities between Western and Chinese gamblers.

We can already reveal one thing. The basic motivation of both population groups is the same: the desire to win a substantial sum with limited effort.

Research into motivation

The well-known psychologist Sigmund Freud was one of the first to investigate the motivation of gamblers. Many of his statements are now being ignored by his colleagues and considered outdated. We also look at his statement from 1928: gambling is a human instinct and an irrational behavior.

Most researchers afterwards saw gambling as something negative from a psychological point of view. They regarded the pleasure of gambling as a pleasant but painful tension. The motivation to gamble would come from rebellion, guilt and self-punishment, as a form of masochism.

As time passes, the insights become more nuanced. But until 1975 studies with the above ideas appear. They are mostly Western studies. Occasionally, some studies also look at gamblers from China. When it comes to the history of gambling, however, no researcher ignores China, where many believe the origin of gambling lies.

Difference between Western and Chinese gamblers

So there are few studies in the West before 1975 in which Chinese gamblers are included. However, it becomes clear that the difference between Western and Chinese gamblers must be sought in the motivation. There are of course cultural differences, but there are even those between Dutch people and, for example, Germans, Englishmen and Frenchmen.

Some researchers point to the psychological consequences of a cultural difference. They point out that in Asian society the collective is more important than the individual. Going to gamble is motivated by the action it is for an individual. When the individual can (finally) start gambling, this may also have an effect on his gambling behavior.


The image of the gambler in the studies is therefore gradually changing. In 1985, for example, Robert Custer and Harry Milt looked more neutrally at the motives of gamblers. They expressed the suspicion that gamblers do not share the same motives, but each have their own motive.

From that idea they distinguish six different types of gamblers.

  • Social gambler – playing for pleasure. He is not emotionally affected by profit or loss.
  • Professional gambler – plays for his profession. He bears a loss as an entrepreneur's risk.
  • Antisocial gambler – plays to win at all costs. He is a vasl player.
  • Serious social gambler – plays recreational and for social contact.
  • Fleeing gambler – plays to escape daily life. He seeks relaxation and relief.
  • Addicted gambler – plays compulsively. He has no self-control and neglects his life.

The classification is then used in other studies, such as the one between Western and Chinese gamblers. Some motives are added to the follow-up investigations. But gradually the gambler is once again looked at as if it were a similar group. That makes looking at the difference between Western and Chinese gamblers immediately more difficult.

The gambler group

There are then researchers who simply assume that all gamblers have one motive, for example, get rich easily. Others see two or three motifs. But differentiating in gamblers is hardly made anymore.

We compare a large number of studies from 1980 to 2005. One researcher considers the gambler economically, as the player who wants to earn money. Another researcher only recognizes escape and flight behavior in "the gambler". And so the gambler is put into more boxes.

More cohesion

From 2005, researchers are again looking more at the individual in the gambler. They also explicitly include Chinese gamblers in the investigations. Perhaps partly due to the increase in Asian researchers, both at Eastern and Western universities.

Or is it due to researcher David Papineau. He was one of the first to establish in 2005 that Chinese gamblers differ from Western gamblers. According to him, you cannot use many results from previous Western studies with Chinese gamblers.

Of course there are still numerous studies that do not distinguish between the Western and Chinese individual gambler. That of course also has to do with the research motive. On the other hand, there are studies that specifically target Chinese gamblers. Especially where the problems of or with Chinese gamblers are striking, such as in Montreal.


And there will be studies that look for similarities and differences. Such as the research by Namrata Rayle and Tian Po Oei in 2009 into the difference between Caucasian and Chinese gamblers in Australia. Their research confirmed previous investigations about Chinese gamblers, both of themselves and others.

There is more insight into the Chinese gambler world, moreover also through the review of research from before 2005. Everyone more or less agrees on the difference between Western and Chinese gamblers. Those differences are:

  1. Western gamblers have fewer problems with thinking errors when gambling. Gamblers in China have a much stronger idea that they have control over the game. They think they can predict the course of the game and they have a harder time stopping gambling than their Western counterparts.
  2. The Western gambler tends to risk avoiding behavior faster, while Chinese gamblers seem to seek out the risk.
  3. Both types of gamblers are focused on opportunities. But Western gamblers are investigating the likelihood of a chance. The Chinese gambler hardly looks at probability, he believes in being lucky.
  4. With the Western gambler, the environment plays a role in the degree of risk taking. With the Chinese gambler, the game determines how far he goes with the risk of betting.
  5. The Chinese gambler uses the game much more than the Western gambler to escape daily life. Avoiding or fleeing from stress, anxiety and the like is an important motive for the Chinese gambler.
  6. Western gambling is all about pleasure, excitement and sensation. These motives are hardly present with the Chinese gambler.
  7. The Western gambler hopes or expects to gradually improve the game through learning and new insights. These are motives that do not interest the Chinese gambler.

Win money

As stated at the beginning, the corresponding motivation is "the desire to win a substantial sum with limited effort". Yet researchers also discovered differences in this. Because the Chinese gambler thinks he has more control, he also has a larger, almost unrealistic expectation to actually win.

Problem gamblers

Together with other behavior that is a consequence of this (more risk taking, more thinking errors), there are more problem gamblers among Chinese than among Western gamblers (percentage in relation to the total population size).


The above comparisons are of course generalizations. There will be Chinese gamblers who are risk-averse and Western gamblers who do not want to learn from their game. However, casino bosses will have to recognize that there is a difference between Western and Chinese gamblers. Certainly now that China is profiling itself as a superpower and the Chinese may be visiting Western casinos more than in the past or visiting online.


Numerous sources have been used for the above message. Below some examples.

  • Rayle and Oei investigated the differences between Caucasian and Chinese gamblers in 2009. It appears that they subsequently wrote a book about the Chinese gambler (pdf of book). They did much more research together, especially in 2004. For example, "The role of culture in gambling" (pdf). The book is probably a bundle of their experiences and results.
  • Robert Custer and Harry Milt also released a book, When luck runs out, shortly after their research
  • Other studies used include:
    • Motivation and gambling involvement of Chantal, Vallerand and Vallieres 2001 (pdf)
    • Chinese Casino Gambling Behaviors by Ozorio and Fong 2004 (pdf)
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