- Created: Wednesday, 01 April 2020 22:25
- Published: Wednesday, 01 April 2020 22:25
If you’ve been watching Asian movies since the 80’s you may have noticed that, aside from elaborate song and dance numbers, gritty crime drama, and lightning-fast fight scenes, gambling is a popular theme in Asian cinema.
Casino movies were especially popular until the late ’90s, although more recent films like VENICE to MACAU and South Korea’s TAZZA series has led to a revival. Horse racing and other types of sports betting have been consistent cameos in countless Asian movies and TV dramas as well.
Below, we explore why.
The surge of Asian gambling films was widely credited to Hong Kong director Wong Jing and his 1981 film, Challenge of the Gamesters. A prequel to Wong’s hit TV show, "The Shell Game," GAMESTERS established the standards of the typical Asian gambling movie, including luxurious locations and costumes, international intrigue, and a talented hero with an almost-superhuman skill fighting against the odds.
The movie became a decent success and eventually paved the way for the so-called new wave of gambling cinema from the ’80s to the mid-’90s.
So, what links Asian cinema with gambling?
Many experts attribute it to strong Asian beliefs in fortune, particularly in mainland China. Many Asian cultures also have deep-seated stigmas against seeking help for addiction, resulting in a boom in casinos and gambling in many countries across the continent during the 20th century.
According to studies from UCLA, the rate of gambling addiction amongst Asians today is between 6 and 60%, depending on ethnicity. In comparison, the rate of gambling addiction in the United States averages 2%.
A Lucrative Industry
Asia’s love of gambling is not lost on casinos and other gambling establishments, who have also tailored their offerings to be more Asian-friendly with significant success.
In many casinos, Asians make up an estimated 80 percent of the clientele, who are enticed by free or discounted transportation and lodging, Asian entertainers, and promotions around Lunar New Year and other Asian holidays.
More recently, online casino and sports betting websites such as sbobet have also seen a surge of popularity in many Asian countries, where offshore gaming operators offer various games overseen by dealers fluent in various Asian languages.
With gambling as a cultural mainstay with Asian countries and the easy availability of gambling options, it’s no surprise that films centered on gambling have found a steady market in the continent.
Most, if not all, Asian gambling movies have become top earners with millions of dollars in the box office. Many Asian movies that are not about gambling tend to have subplots that involve casinos, gambling, and the associated gangster stereotypes, as well.
While the issue of gambling addiction in the region is concerning, the wave of Asian gambling movies has mostly been a positive one. Movies like CASINO RAIDER, the GOD OF GAMBLERS and its sequels, and ALL FOR THE WINNER have been financial and critical successes, drawing tourism to Hong Kong, mainland China, and other Asian countries.
The continued popularity of casino movies in the 21st century also means it’s a safe bet that these films are here to stay for the foreseeable future.