How Gambling Varies in Different Countries

March 11, 2017

My most recent trip to Sri Lanka saw a return of an old habit of mine: jumping into a nearby casino with a fistful of foreign cash. Though I admit there’s nothing like the rush of setting a few chips in that betting circle and waiting to see what cards come up, I usually write off such experiences abroad as cultural research, i.e. how do Sri Lankans feel about gambling? Is it mostly dominated by tourists?

Casino in Macau

Blackjack is my game of choice when I’m playing for cash, but often when I’m the sole representing Texan in my area abroad, I like to organize poker games between willing expats. I’ve also enjoyed exploring gambling cultures. Observing how someone from a different country gambles, just as how he or she runs or haggles or conducts business, is a window to better understanding.

United Kingdom

I haven’t spent too much time in London or Liverpool, but it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen a movie even loosely referencing gambling that sports betting is more popular than casino games in the UK. Piccadilly Circus has a few high-end casinos for tourists, but there are over a thousand betting shops scattered across London.

Sri Lanka

The majority of table games in Sri Lanka seem to be for tourists; though they’re a little far for Japanese people to visit, there were plenty of Europeans, Malaysians, and Indians. Because there are so few of them and the country is still in recovery from a long civil war, many locals simply do not partake.


Casino gambling is illegal in Japan, though I’m not sure if there are places to bet on sports or horses in parts of Tokyo. The closest alternative is pachinko, which ironically seems to me to be the biggest deterrent for gambling I can imagine. Pachinko parlors can be found in almost every corner of Japan, and are usually consistent in design: the loudest environment imaginable, filled with cigarette smoke and slot jockeys.



Did you know the Canadian $100 bill actually smells like maple syrup? The government can deny it all it likes, but tourists and Canadians picked up on the scent in a matter of days after its release. This comes in particularly handy if you’re fond of sweets and high stakes gambling. Though sports gambling and the lottery is available across the country, Canada seems to be more of a draw for destination and resort casino goers in the mountains.

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