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Generations of Chinese citizens, for example, accept gambling in society and also strongly value notions of luck and predetermined destiny, Fong said. Many lived as farmers or peasants before China liberalized its economy, and looked forward to the new year in part because it was the only time they could take a genuine break from work.

“It’s much more driven by (the idea that) things are predetermined. It’s kind of, well, this is our opportunity to almost test the fates, test our luck as to what’s in store for us for the next coming year,” Fong said. “There’s a lot of value placed on if you do and win really well … then you’re going to have a great year.

“It’s kind of like a little litmus test, if you will,” he said.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia